By: Emily Y.
Above: Isabel Marant Spring 2016
I feel like I need to come forward with a dark confession (relatively speaking) with regards to style and fashion: I really don’t like Isabel Marant’s designs.
Above: Isabel Marant Fall 2015
Hailed as the ultimate cool girl of Parisian fashion, it feels like blasphemy to say this about Marant’s work. But what can I say–I wasn’t clamouring to see see her H&M collaboration back in the day, nor do I ever look forward to seeing her offerings season after season.
Above: Isabel Marant Fall 2014
My issue with her designs is two-fold:
1. There is nary a collection (as you can see from the four different collections sampled here) that doesn’t teeter towards cultural appropriation in some way
2. While her collections aren’t outright racist, there are subtle elements of various cultures in her collections–a furry mukluk-inspired bootie here, a bit of fringe there. That being said, most institutional racism is very, very subtle.
Above: Isabel Marant Spring 2015
I’ll leave you with some of these snippets from Vogue Runway reviews of her shows, so you can see the rhetoric of cultural appropriation seeping in for yourselves:
Isabel Marant pulled together a thumping ’80s hip-hop soundtrack for her show today, even though the influences on her new collection skewed more North India than South Bronx. The Parisian designer has made a name for herself by filtering that elusive French girl cool through a distinctly global lens: She was a seasoned traveler from an early age, thanks to her bohemian upbringing, and has a knack for cherry-picking, and then deftly reconfiguring, dress codes and traditions from all four corners of the planet. For Spring, Marant’s divining stick led her to the rich, colorful textiles of Rajasthan.
– from the Spring 2016 Vogue Runway review of Isabel Marant’s show by Chioma Nnadi
No matter what Isabel Marant is looking at—American cowboys, Elvis Presley, the Navajo tribe—what it all boils down to is what she and her cool-girl clients want to wear […] whose graphic work led her in the direction of Africa—”tribal without being too literal” is how the designer described what she was going for.
– from the Spring 2015 Vogue Runway review of Isabel Marant’s show by Nicole Phelps
And then she didn’t wax lyrical about the Peruvian knit and blanket influences in her collection, the curly-shearling gilets, the fact that a padded canvas jacket looked as if it had something to do with judo, and that blanket-check shirts came into it. All she talked about was her own way of thinking about dressing during winter. “I always want to do something comfortable and cozy. When the weather is like that, you never feel like being too pretty or fancy,” she explained.
– from the Fall 2014 Vogue Runway review of Isabel Marant’s show by Sarah Mower
“This lean silhouette was that starting point of the entire collection,” shared Marant backstage, wearing a pair herself already. The jeans came in winter white with admiral buttons and also in her default print—ikat.
– from the Fall 2015 Vogue Runway review of Isabel Marant’s show by Emma Elwick-Bates