Cultural appropriation involves treating another culture like a fashion trend or a fad. Belittling the culture in this way is a form of racism.
Culture should not be reduced to a fashion accessory. Recent examples of cultural appropriation in the fashion industry include Gucci appropriating the Sikh turban on catwalks, Victoria Secret dressing their lingerie models in Native American headdresses, and Marc Jacobs having numerous white models walk down the catwalk wearing dreadlocks. Appropriation does not only exist within the world of high fashion; a white person wearing a removable bindi, wearing their hair in cornrows, or getting a henna tattoo are also examples of cultural appropriation. These trends are damaging because they treat an entire culture like a disposable fashion trend and only engage with a culture superficially. This debasement of an entire culture is racist. The fashion industry is one of the worst culprits for cultural appropriation, as they fail to acknowledge the history of the clothing and culture they attempt to replicate. Fashion may not seem inherently political, but it is. We have to acknowledge the entire journey of an item of clothing, taking into consideration the way it is manufactured, consumed, marketed, and experienced. When we look closely at all of these things, it is clear that fashion perpetuates themes from violent colonialism. The fashion industry tokenizes models of colour and uses them as interchangeable props, while also using predominantly white models. This racist behaviour discredits any claims from brands that they use cultural appropriation to encourage cultural exchange and diversity. Fashion brands also combine styling elements from completely different cultures, particularly from Eastern Asia, demonstrating a disregard for the cultures they are claiming to explore.
Cultural appropriation in fashion can be a good thing, creating a cultural exchange and diversifying the content we consume. Appropriation has the power to break down barriers between cultures by encouraging the sharing of fashion and cultural practices. Wearing clothing from other cultures teaches people more about that culture and how to respect it. Outside of fashion, we embrace cultural fusion. The music industry would be nowhere without sampling and cultural remix, and we can learn about another culture by cooking and eating their cuisine. Why should the fashion industry be any different?
[P1] Cultural appropriation can involve borrowing elements of another culture for use in fashion. [P2] This engages with the culture in a superficial and disposable way and treats the culture like a fashion trend or fad. [P3] This is a debasement of the culture, which is racist.
Rejecting the premises