I’d like to make a distinction between an homage or the general idea of “taking inspiration from” versus racism and cultural appropriation in fashion.
Take the case of the recently-released Pre-Fall 2016 collection of Maison Kitsuné, a design house helmed by Gildas Loaëc. According to Vogue Runway reviewer Amy Verner, the collection is inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s film The Wind Rises:
“Maison Kitsuné’s Pre-Fall and men’s collections once again shared the same source material: Hayao Miyazaki’s film The Wind Rises. It’s a resourceful tactic that also presents well in stores, especially when couples decide they want matching Mount Fuji sweaters.”
Amazing/awesome/totally fantastic idea right? Except….no. Maison Kitsuné’s execution of this “inspiration” was laughable at best, and plain racist at worst.
The Pre-Fall lookbook had the model of choice–a white woman–sporting bright dots of pink blush no doubt winking at both the stylized illustrations of anime and Geisha makeup whilst posing in camouflage, sweaters festooned by prints of Mt. Fuji, and even geta. She’s seen waving about the Japanese flag, flying toy airplanes with blissful naiveté, and painting pictures of apparently nothing at all.
There are two things particularly egregious about this Maison Kitsuné collection.
First, they actually did manage to book an Asian model for their Pre-Fall 2016 Men‘s collection lookbook–so why not for the women’s lookbook? Also, as you can see, he’s not sporting caricatured makeup like the model in the woman’s lookbook.
Secondly, we’ve seen very strong collections inspired by anime, Japanese culture, and Miyazaki’s work specifically. I suggested that the Comme des Garçons Spring ’16 collection was inspired by Howl’s Moving Castle, and there is nary a wooden sandal or grossly overused and abused Japanese art print in sight. As such, this collection is just plain l-a-z-y and kinda gross to be honest.
The worst part is, is I actually like Maison Kitsuné designs usually. Take the look from their Fall 2014 collection above. This is pretty much what I wear every day, especially the white tights (no for real, this is actually my uniform). To add insult to injury, the Fall 2014 collection above was modeled by Yumi Lambert–who is actually of Japanese descent. So it’s not even like Maison Kitsuné could claim the ignorance of not knowing any Japanese or Asian models….
Really though, looking at this Maison Kitsuné collection, you can see how garrish, surface-level, and cheaply stereotypical it is compared to collections arguably based on a similar concept that are true works of art. Gildas Loaëc shame on you–quit while you’re really not ahead, and go learn from a master like Rei Kawakubo.
All pictures from Vogue Runway here, here, and here.