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26-01-2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr-Dale View Post
For me the use of references to the Native American culture are no different than designers referencing nuns, codes from Arabian cultures or Asian tradititonal clothing.

If a headdress is racist, is a Western take on the kimono or the burqah not racist as well? I just don't feel the term racist is in place when it comes to being inspired by other cultures.

So why is it that headdresses are perceived as racist and kimonos are not? Wherein lies the difference?
Yes! This was exactly the point I was trying to make. I don't know much about Native Americans, but the constant (very tiresome) discussions about them actually make me wonder why there's never discussions about other (religious) cultures.

But hey, i'm European and I like I said, I don't know much about the subject. I just view it with my own unbiased eyes.

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26-01-2014
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about Olivier, I am just glad he is embracing the other side of his ethnicity. I think its such BS to call out diversity when the casting for his show has a majority of pale faces and only recently did his show seem a little more diverse

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26-01-2014
  18
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is there a cure for racism?
I'm not so sure. when we talk about fashion and racism it's like fashion is an island insulated from society. it's like when people tell you the internet is bad. it's the same people you see in the street that go online. so fashion is a microcosm in a greater entity that is institutionally racist. racism is hard to define. if one group of people identified by skin color determine that they're superior to or are entitled to more privileges than other groups, it's borderline absurd. you're talking about martin luther king's speech. how about 2000 years of so-called civilization?

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26-01-2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anlabe32 View Post
Yes! This was exactly the point I was trying to make. I don't know much about Native Americans, but the constant (very tiresome) discussions about them actually make me wonder why there's never discussions about other (religious) cultures.

But hey, i'm European and I like I said, I don't know much about the subject. I just view it with my own unbiased eyes.
It's interesting to see what people who are not American think of the use of cultural garb worn by Native Americans in fashion because often it is so different from what I've experienced in my life. I'm going to generalize here (sorry about this) but, so many Europeans seem blissfully unaware of the struggles of Native Americans, and in particular unaware of the way the appropriation of cultural signifiers (such as particular patterns and the use of war bonnets) has been affected by them. From what I can see the issues regarding First Nation people don't seem to be as well known outside of the US/Canada (but I could be very wrong about this... I'm not sure) so therefore when it comes up in topics like fashion, people aren't always aware of the issues.

Personally, I find that you said the conversations about Native Americans and cultural appropriation is a 'constant (very tiresome) discussion' to be rather distasteful. Having conversations about this subject is so, so important. It may not seem like it is but the fact is that the appropriation of garb such particular patterns and the use of war bonnets typically foster incorrect ideas about Native Americans. Plus, the added fact that many of these cultural signifiers are used in a way that is highly sexualized and the fact that one in three Native American women have been raped or will experience attempted sexual assault in their life. The correlation between the sexualization of cultural items in fashion and the abuse of a particular group of women cannot be dismissed.

Growing up I was exposed to issues regarding Native groups (where I grew up had a decent sized population and where I go to college does too) and so while I cannot claim to understand what the Native experience is like, I have always been very aware of the appropriation of Native garments in fashion. I suppose we are always have a 'heightened' awareness when the issue is close to our heart or something we've personally witnessed/experienced. So I do see how those who are not from within the United States/Canada (really, anywhere with a local indigenous population) might not "get" why it's wrong to use such garb in fashion. But exposure to such issues is always a good thing. And fashion can be a way to have this conversation through supporting Native designers, Native models, etc. There's definitely been some great conversations in the last few years too (on other threads on tfs and throughout the fashion world) but of course there is always more to talk about.

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27-01-2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HeatherAnne View Post
You don't see the problem with two white people recreating a scalping? Wow...

Let me put it in another context for you, what if it was two white people recreating a slavery lynching?

There's a way to tastefully depict historical tragedies in art and put them in a context that garners respect and sympathy from people, but when it's solely used to be controversial and shock in awe, like every editorial that's ever graced the pages of Purple Magazine, that's a completely different thing.
The image doesn't seem to have much to do with scalping. The victor seems to be about to bury a tomahawk in the captive's skull, an activity not limited to any particular ethnicity. Scalping was actually introduced to the North American continent by white French and English colonists who paid their indigenous collaborators - or allies, depending on which accounts one prefers - for scalps proving the extermination of one more rival colonist. By the mid-1700s, the population explosion within New England was of serious concern to the French and to native peoples too, and French and native warriors who brought English scalps to French military authorities were rewarded for them. It was done to French settlers too, but as the French population was much smaller than its English (British) counterpart, the numbers of French craniums laid bare reflected this.

But then, this is probably all a bit beyond Mr Zahm & Co. After all, we inhabit or travel in a world where a Vogue Chief Editor had to ask her Features Editor who Gabriel García Marquéz was and, upon being told, dismissed the proposed interview and feature by telling the meeting that if she didn't know who he was then her readers wouldn't either. But was her ignorance rooted in racism? Maybe, if you want to cite Euro-centrism as racism. Is the ignorance of history revealed in those Purple images rooted in the same kind of racism? Maybe. But there are plenty of instances of out-an-out racism in Fashion without straining to see it where it might not exist. Witness my experience at Condé Nast on landing a rarely-granted interview with the late Nina Simone. It was a difficult telephone conversation because she hated white people, or pretended to. Telling her that I was Irish and therefore almost black cut no ice. She had no idea, it seems, of the common aspects of West African and Celtic social history. Ah well…

But she consented to be featured and that was a victory. She insisted that the journalist be "a person of colour, one of my people!". Did I know any such writers, she asked, challengingly. Well, I knew a couple of British journalists of Nigerian extraction but sensing that she might write me off as a smart arse if I put it that way, I just said yes. Then I went down the corridor to give the good news to the boss, who was suitably pleased and asked me when I was leaving. So I explained the conditions imposed by Doctor Simone and said I had it covered. Steel blue eyes transfixed me:

"We don't mind having them in the magazine from time to time but we don't want them working here, do we?"

And that was that. Nina Simone died soon afterwards. Truth be known, I would love to have interviewed her myself. I have quite a portfolio of sacred monsters. But she insisted that her interlocutor be black. Is this indicative of the nature of racism as a two-way street? Do blacks get a free pass because of slavery? Are we wrong to remind particularly strident black promoters of the racial divide that the West African slave trade was run by despotic locals? Does it negate our shameful part in the trade as consumers? You see, when you take a closer look at any question involving racism, you soon see that there are shades of grey between the black and the white poles. I wrote a screenplay once about the first US Army 'Colored' Regiment to land in France in 1918. I was given an introduction to a prominent African-American producer and director. The conversation went nowhere because he was so freaked out that a white Irishman had written it. Oh sure, he wanted to buy it from me, so that it could be rewritten by a suitably dark-skinned screenwriter. Who was the racist there? Or was he being a realist? Did he feel that nobody would finance a film about African-Americans written by a white man?

Back on Planet Fashion, we were often told that it would be great to "have more ethnics" in the magazines but that copy sales figures plunged when there were black faces on the cover. Never mind that US Vogue's Oprah cover was reportedly the biggest-selling issue to date at that time. "Ah, but, that's America. Blacks are more integrated over there." would come the response. But the editor who refused to have a black writer interview and profile Nina Simone in the magazine really did have a problem with blacks. As a recovering racist myself, I was able to help him with this problem and he is on the mend these days.

For me, it's all very well to have these discussions but they so often commence and end in accusation and recrimination. Until mankind realises the simple truth that communication and education, including self-education, is the only means of overcoming the innate savagery within us all, which is always ready to express itself through any pretext, skin colour being an easy one, then we will keep circling one another watchfully.

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Last edited by prosperk; 27-01-2014 at 03:34 AM.
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27-01-2014
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Quote:
A gay artist from Russia has created a flipped image in response to the controversial photo of Garage magazine's white, female editor-in-chief sitting on a "black woman" chair.

The Russian editor-in-chief of Garage magazine, Dasha Zhukova, came under fire for an editorial photo showing her seated atop a chair designed to look like a black woman with a belt around her waist and thighs and her legs up in the air.

The photo, which offended many, began circulating on Monday, Jan. 20, which was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Zhukova eventually apologized and called the decision to appear with such a racially insensitive piece of art "regrettable." She also reasoned that designer Bjarne Melgaard's actual intent was a "commentary on gender and racial politics."

But, some did not find the apology sufficient.

Alexander Kargaltsev, a gay New York City-based photographer and gay activist, decided to stage his own response to the "outrageous and tasteless" portrait with an image of a naked black man seated on a naked white man, whose legs are folded up to create a "chair."

"I was forced to leave Russia because of the discrimination I experienced as a gay," Kargaltsev told The Huffington Post in an emailed statement Friday. "I'm disappointed that the tradition of xenophobia is so strong in my home country that such an image of Ms. Zhukova can appear as if it is normal and unremarkable. Russian people do not seem to realize when people offend the principle of color, nationality, sexual orientation and so on."

Kargaltsev explained the idea behind his photo to Out There Magazine, saying:

[I]t deeply saddens me to see that racism is now being glamorized and thus made not only acceptable but trendy by the likes of Ms. Zhukova. My own composition reverses the visual injustice and offense perpetrated by that editorial and in a way restores the equality of genders, races, and sexual orientations. Sadly, I understand very well that my work will be seen by most Russians as provocative and inappropriate, while that repulsive image (published on Martin Luther King’s Day of all days in a year) will hardly make anyone over there shake their head.


NSFW image contained in the following link:


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/0...ef=mostpopular

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27-01-2014
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More than racist the chair is absolutely demeaning to women in general. The fact it's a black woman "chair" to me is a side issue. The chair is the issue.
I had the displeasure to see the white woman chair "counterpart", and the inspiration for this one, recently at a Tate show called "art under attack" , apparently feminists threw acid at it to defaced it but it has been lovingly restored, that's why it was included in the show. The inclusion of the chair left a bad taste in my mouth, what did the Tate meant by it? Particularly when the chair is part of the Tate collection and receives full honours as an art piece. To be honest if there was a time in my life that i felt an urge to kick an "art piece" was this one, it's absolutely disgusting.
That someone thinks it's a good idea to recreate this chair and add a racial element to it, is beyond understanding.


Last edited by Les_Sucettes; 27-01-2014 at 08:30 AM.
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27-01-2014
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^Also, you raise a good point about the use of women in art in general, Guerrilla Girls has found that as of 2012, "less then 5% of the artist in the Metropolitan's Modern Art section is by women, but 85% of the nudes are of women." It's quite telling, no? So while the Tate and the Met are different museums they still support many of the same artists. I can imagine seeing that "chair" would be horrible, no matter what race the women depicted was portrayed as. Some things are just horrible no matter which way people try to spin it. And why anyone would see this "chair" as art is beyond me, it just reeks of misogyny and in particular cases, racism too.

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02-02-2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr-Dale View Post
I fail to see how that specific cultural symbol differs from the use of kimonos or what ever other cultural attire in fashion.
Both are wrong: how can you appropriate other cultures' indigenous dress--much of which has meaning to that culture other than "that's so cute/fierce/sexy!"--but erase them from the picture? The use of Native American garb and imagery comes across as though these people do not exist in our modern-day society, that they are an ancient, dead, and absent cultural group from whom we can freely pilfer for ~inspiration~.

Then there's the issue a few others have raised: women of color have a very long history of sexual exploitation by those in power. Taking a kimono or a War bonnet to place in a sexual context--think Katy Perry's outfit at the AMAs--is demeaning and dismissive of what women of color face in terms of how their sexuality is stereotyped and objectified even by white women.

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03-02-2014
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That chair is totally gross. And I'd say that if a black woman were sitting on a white male too. It doesn't have much aesthetic or socio-political value.

Yoninah - very interesting statistics, thanks.

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03-02-2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NoirFemme View Post
Both are wrong: how can you appropriate other cultures' indigenous dress--much of which has meaning to that culture other than "that's so cute/fierce/sexy!"--but erase them from the picture? The use of Native American garb and imagery comes across as though these people do not exist in our modern-day society, that they are an ancient, dead, and absent cultural group from whom we can freely pilfer for ~inspiration~.

Then there's the issue a few others have raised: women of color have a very long history of sexual exploitation by those in power. Taking a kimono or a War bonnet to place in a sexual context--think Katy Perry's outfit at the AMAs--is demeaning and dismissive of what women of color face in terms of how their sexuality is stereotyped and objectified even by white women.
Very interesting points. I think it is safe to say that we as a society do accept Japanese inspired fashion. Or Massai, Peruvian, Russian, Slavic, Scottish, Dutch, Arabian, Indian inspired fashion. To mention just a few specific cultures and their attire that have been referenced in (high) fashion over the past ten years. I've at least never seen or heard any major objection to those cultural references or it being interpreted as racist.

So when does cultural inspired fashion become racist? When the specific culture was once (or still is) oppressed by white Western society? I'm just trying to understand what's going on here, because there seems to be a very thin line that not everyone in fashion naturally acknowledges or doesn't recognize at all. Perhaps out of ignorance or an aesthetic hunger, but either way, it's very confusing. I'm confused, that's for sure.

I just wanna yell out 'World peace for everyone!' and embrace the beauty of our world's rich ammount of cultures and see it translated by the creative medium I love the most. But I guess that is not an option. I really just want to understand.

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03-02-2014
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^I feel ya, this is such a tricky and complex subject and one which I am still always trying to broadening my understanding about. When is the use of a cultural signifier in fashion racist and when is it not??? There is certainly a fine line and one that I don't think is always easy to spot. Our world is so, so beautiful and much of this beauty can be seen in the different types of clothing and accessories that people wear. That said, I think there are times and places when certain cultural items should be left in their cultural context. Other times it may not be seen as a big deal. One thing that I have learned while studying anthropology is that "context is key." You can remove an item from its cultural setting and it may lose all significance, but this is not always the right or best thing to do. It is important to look at the culture from which an item comes from and try to understand the value that this particular culture places on it. This is one way of thinking that I try to use while seeing if something in fashion may be racist or not. But obviously, it's a lot more complex then this too, this is just one piece of the many layers and nuances of racism in fashion.

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Last edited by YoninahAliza; 03-02-2014 at 10:13 PM.
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03-02-2014
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I think it's interesting how we are becoming this global world, where cultures and traditions are becoming more mixed, and where it becomes increasingly important to have an understanding for history, to preserve certain aspects of different cultures, and also pass on the beauty of them to the next generations. And yet it's so difficult to do it right. I, personally, still have a hard time fully understanding why it's so wrong to take inspiration from Native Americans for collections, editorials, etc. Where I live, people dress up as Native Americans for carnival, the Winnetou movies were hugely popular and a big part of my childhood and people just generally seem to admire the beauty of the fashion of Native Americans. And yet in the past few years it has become an absolute no-no for anyone in the world to take inspiration from them when it's not in a historical/educational/"right" context and use it for something 'banal' like fashion. I guess that also has to do with globalization, people becoming more aware of their history and its ugly sides, their current miserable situation and so on. But I understand when people have difficulties getting used to seeing it like that, because I definitely still struggle with it, too. I'm starting to see why some people think it's wrong, but do *I* think it's wrong? I'm not quite there yet, I think.

That being said, to me fashion is always history, art and a representation of our culture. But what makes the current fashion scene so bland is that it's mostly inspired by the same eras, areas and people. Prada may be inspired by Japan for one season, then it's the South Sea, and then it's Russia. Same goes for most other designers. But eventually it's just the same stereotypical aspects being rehashed again and again by many designers in many collections and it eventually never quite feels like a tribute to a culture but just like a short-lived trend. But that doesn't mean I'm offended by it. I actually think it's good that people keep trying to broaden the spectrum of what people see as beautiful, fashionable and inspiring. The business side of fashion unfortunately still seems to interfere with that.

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03-02-2014
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Quote:
...and try to understand the value that this particular culture places on it.
This sounds right to me; it's important, for example, to know if a particular garment or accessory carries a deeper meaning (i.e., maybe is spiritual) to a certain culture, or if it's just a trend. Probably in the later case it'd be less egregious to revise and "quote" from that culture. Problems arise when people don't know the context, as Yoninah aptly and already pointed out.

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04-02-2014
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I do agree with you completely, Mr-Dale. But I am also very glad that people here on TFS are politically, and socially aware and sensitive to the cultural appropriation used/ exploited/ celebrated in fashion. Even as sanctimoniously so in their support of diversity as some may be-- I still appreciate it. However, and oftentimes, I cannot help but be convinced, reading these posts on the demand for racial-diversity in models, and the insensitivity of cultural appropriation in fashion, that it really only applies to certain races, and is not inclusive of equality for all races.

There was a case here in Toronto where a Native individual complained that the floral-embellished headbands sold at H&M were offensive to her because they trivialized her culture. THey were immediately pulled. It's this type of overreaction I find unbearable, as these pieces could have been the launching-point to some impressionable young customer to learn about the piece's origins.

Some of my family members are Buddhist, but they never complained or demanded that those mass-produced Buddha busts sold everywhere as home decor be removed from the shelves (in respect to the Tibetan oppression that continues in the hands of the Chinese government). As Mr-Dale has brought up, kimonos are a cherished and much respected garment in Japanese tradition-- passed down from generation to generation as a family heirloom, yet it's a purely fashionable and throwaway garment to many in the West-- often even associated with lingerie-wear, and no one complains how disrespectful that may come across to the Japanese. Lest some forget how unjust the Japanese-Americans were treated in the US at one time... or how disgustingly exploitive the Chinese who came to Canada to work on the railroads were treated by the Canadian government at one time as well... but I suppose in the eyes of some, because these Asian countries have become power players globally and no longer being visibly oppressed, it's alright to trivialize their traditional, and even sacred garments...? (Or for that matter, no thread was created to discuss when the Armani in Beijing event revealed how disrespectful-- perhaps racist, the organizers treated the Chinese models.)

There's such a huge difference between a genuine image of the Buddha to a Buddhist, then these mass-produced cheap decorative pieces. Just as a genuine piece of rosary means so much to a devout Catholic compared to their fashionable Dolce & Gabbana version. I see the same for the Native-American War Bonnet and would hope that Natives feel the sam way, if it's shown in a positive manner. Granted, I think Karl's version is offensive to me in just how tacky and inconsiderate the styling is-- and, just going by how shallow and vapid Karl is as a designer (and probably a person-- but that's for another discussion), I would conclude his appropriation of any cultural piece is most likely for superficial purposes only, and not out for genuine admiration for the culture. Someone like Gaultier, on the other hand, has always come across as an individual with a genuine curiosity, appreciation and admiration for other cultures and races.

So, I think it really is about, as some have thoughtfully pointed out, all in the context, and the individual designer/ stylist/ editor, when it comes to these cultural appropriations, when we should judge. Gaultier has always come across genuinely respectful, creative, imaginative and inspiring in his vision of melding cultures together. Karl-- purely shallow, and hopelessly superficial. And us everyday people are the same: Some will take inspiration, and education from these cultural appropriations, while some will just see it as "cute", "fierce"... To me anyways.

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