Fashion Bytes

Image via Native Appropriations Blog

This past week Proenza Schouler released a video, “Snowballs”. The internet has been strangely quiet, but the featuring of clearly Caucasian models in Plains Indian headdresses and garments made of fabrics alluding to the textiles made by the First Nations strikes me as remarkably culturally insensitive. There was outrage on the Huffington Post and Jezebel when the above image of Tom Ford was released in 2010, as reported at the time by Native Appropriations and many others. There was even louder protestation over 2009 French Vogue photos featuring models in blackface.  A technique which was repeated in Numero in 2010.

These appropriations of indigenous dress are not limited to high fashion, Urban Outfitters (frequently featured on Native Appropriations) was called out as disrespectful — if not actually racist — for carrying a feathered headdress that same year.

Fashion is an artform, and frequently an avant garde one at that, but, when is it ever acceptable to put white models in blackface? When is it ever acceptable to forget that the Native American cultures appropriated in the video for Schouler, the merchandise featured in Urban Outfitters, and the photo of Tom Ford endured horrifying cruelties and that they should be respected, not mocked?

Fashion frequently dances along the line that exposes taboos, but does it cross that line into the plainly offensive? Do you have alternative interpretations for any of these images?

Please share your thoughts.

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