Cultural Appropriation In The Fashion Industry Needs To Stop-- NOW

In the last week, Dior received backlash after using Jennifer Lawrence to represent a line inspired by Mexican culture. To summarize, the fashion company released a clothing line that was inspired by escaramuza, a Mexican rodeo in which women choreograph and perform on horses in long colorful dresses. They chose Jennifer Lawrence to model the clothes, prompting criticisms of the brand for not using a Mexican woman to model and represent the line. This is problematic because brands that use white people to represent other cultures negate any cultural significance of cultural artifacts, as well as insinuate that cultural artifacts can only be in mainstream culture if they are sported by white women.

This isn't the first time that the fashion industry and fashion icons have pushed culturally appropriated styles into the mainstream and pop culture. Fashion icon Gwen Stefani, for example, reigned from the 1980s all the way to the early 2000s. As outlined in an article by Time Magazine, during the Love. Angel. Music. Baby. era, Gwen Stefani represented part of the Japanese culture with her Harajuku Girls--a group of Asian women hired by Stefani that perpetuated Japanese stereotypes. The Harajuku Girls represented submissiveness, cute culture, and a Harajuku-centric view of Japan. It isn't the only time Gwen Stefani sported other cultures, however. In her Hollaback Girl music video, she is seen wearing a cut-off wife beater with Dickie pants and accessories such as a large buckled belt and pencil brows--all staples of the Chola style.

Before Stefani, this way of dressing was seen as "ghetto." However, after Stefani rose to the limelight, Chola fashion became a part of pop culture. Most people would say that these fashion choices rising to fame are a way of celebrating that culture. But this way of thinking ignores a long history of oppression and violence toward the Latinx community simply due to their choice of dress. The popularization of this style, without any context, negates any cultural significance associated with the Chola style. Therefore, the rise to popularity of the Chola style never celebrated the culture associated with it, instead, it celebrated the appropriation of Latinx culture by Gwen Stefani.

The Kardashians are another, more contemporary, example of cultural appropriation in the fashion industry. The Kardashians have found themselves mixed up in many a controversy surrounding their fashion style choices and cultural appropriation. In one case, Kylie Jenner posted a picture on Instagram of herself wearing cornrows and sweatpants. Many people called her out for appropriating cornrows and a style of dress that is worn in black communities, and are again considered "ghetto." All while she ignores the racial discrimination the community faces daily. In another Instagram post, Khloe posted a picture of herself wearing a Native American headdress. In which, she also paid no homage to Native American culture or struggles. In both cases, the Kardashians appropriate a style of dress from different cultures. Much like Gwen Stefani, this practice effectively erases any association with long histories of oppression and cultural genocide that these forms of dress carry.

In short, the cultural appropriation of fashion is not okay because it perpetuates a system of cultural genocide. By appropriating clothing, companies like Dior and fashion icons are not celebrating cultures, but rather they are presenting cultural artifacts to the public with no context, and therefore, diminishing the cultural significance of those items within their original communities. That being said, that doesn't mean we should stop trying to celebrate other cultures. The United States is a melting pot of cultures, and every single one of them deserves to be represented. This means that the fashion industry and fashion icons need to represent cultural artifacts with people who belong to those cultures. This also means they should be held accountable when they don't. This way, we would be able to celebrate these cultural artifacts without disregarding the cultural, and historical significance that these items of clothing carry.