Whose Fashion is it anyway?

By: Nhlanhla Vilakazi

Africa and African fashion have been an influence for a number of years, and the world is starting to see African style as profitable. International brands such as Louis Vuitton, and Gucci have taken an interest in the African aesthetic and are now using it in their collections, profiting from African style. But how exactly do we draw a line between getting inspiration and cultural appropriation.

It is hard to ignore what the fashion industry is currently hyped up about, what many Africans wear as their normal wear, big brands have taken that and made ridiculous profit from it. The sad part about it is that they (brands) sell us what we already have at high prices, with the designs twisted to accommodate the global fashion industry.

Nydailynews.com states that “It’s a global issue, but the most recent, highly publicized example of it in the fashion industry pertains to Marc Jacobs’s Spring 2017 show at Hammerstein Ballroom”. When the designer was criticised for using rainbow coloured dreadlocks.

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Not only do fashion designers break the rules when it comes to African cultures to make money. Pop stars and influencers such as Fergie, Kylie Jenner, Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian have been criticised for profiting from other people’s cultures and giving it their own narrative, resulting in a misrepresentation of African culture, confusing those who are unfamiliar with it.

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The issue here is not entirely about wearing someone’s cultural items but it’s about the miscommunication between people. They should not steal but borrow. The problem begins when people start behaving like they are the originators of someone’s heritage and culture.

For Dazeddigital.com “Another reason it’s hard for many to differentiate appropriation and appreciation is the belief that intentions come into play (they don’t).” It may not be a big deal for some but for those close to it, they feel robbed of what they are entitled to, cultural wear is more than style, more than a fashion accessory and more than expressing yourself. The story of culture appropriation should not be taken lightly but should start a debate that would make us move forward.

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