This past few days, I’ve been following news about NYFW (New York Fashion Week) — such a breeze of fresh air to finally see the fashion world revolving more on the subject of diversity and authenticity. New fashion brands are nowadays representing non-white models with realistic body types. It’s a thriving site to see when everyone eventually gets the chance to express him/herself in the fashion world, which used to be dominated by white, stick-thin model figures (what’s with the absurd thinking of models equal thin bodies, anyway?).
Nonetheless, Marc Jacobs still seems to not get the memo. The Spring/Summer 2017 show was held on a Thursday afternoon — as per usual, the show used predominantly white models with a couple of colored ones to add “diversity”. It’s no surprise for Marc Jacobs to do that, as the brand itself basically screams WHITE!!!! What disgusts me the most is his audacity to put dreadlocks on those white models. Remember the essay I wrote about Zulaikha Patel (read: here)? Patel is a sweet, 13-year-old African girl who has to undergo bullying from acquaintances and institution, just because of her natural hair. Amandla Stenberg (watch: here) ever talked about how she used to straighten her afro every single day until it got heavily damaged, in order to be accepted by the society. In the video, Stenberg talked about how dreadlocks and cornrows were invented to keep black people’s natural hair neat yet still looking stylish.
African physical features, including hair, have been dismissed as the antithesis of beauty. Among society, internalized white beauty standard worsens the confidence of black women.Straightening natural hair is often done by black women to blend in the society norms. Media outlets and manipulative advertisements also push black women to do all things such as perming the hair, heating it with damaging Sodium Hydroxide chemicals, in order to achieve the unrealistic belief of internalized beauty paradigms. It’s sickening to see how Zulaikha Patel have to struggle due to her hair, but fashion brand like Marc Jacobs can easily put white models in dreadlocks with people assuming the concept as “ground-breaking, innovative aesthetic”.
As you can see from the Instagram picture, Marc Jacobs actually replied to a comment that criticized his show. His stupid-ass equalized cultural appropriation as “nonsense”. Saying “funny how you don’t criticize women of color for straightening their hair” only validates the notion that he’s actually uneducated. If only he made the time of his life to sit back, contemplate and learn about cultural appropriation…. He’d be a much less of an asshole. Cultural appropriation happens when someone from a much more privileged condition takes an element from other minority culture, out of its original context. One should understand the purpose and learn the history thoroughly before deciding whether adopting the particular culture is offensive or not. One can’t just appropriate a culture solely due to its beauty, then proceed to disregard the origin and suffering. The least that a privileged person can do is RESPECT or APPRECIATE the culture by educating him/herself about it.
White girls are considered “boho-chic” when they wear dreadlocks in a fashion show, yet an actual black woman is considered filthy/smelling like weed when wearing the particular hairstyle (read Giuliana Rancic’s comment on Zendaya: here). When white girls like Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid can flaunt the dreadlocks on the runaway like it is nothing, black men & women with actual dreadlocks have to bear assumptions of “unprofessional/thug/criminal”. Every day, black people are reminded of their skin and hair; the fact that Marc Jacobs chooses to not see color or race defines his authority and white privilege. Bottom line, it’s simple. The show is highly disrespectful, and no one can say otherwise. If Marc Jacobs wanted to use dreadlocks on his show, he should have hired more black models — that’s that.