Marc Jacobs Just Gave White Models Dreadlocks

Stella Maxwell at Marc Jacobs SS17.
And then defended the concept on Instagram.

Over the last couple of years, cultural appropriation - specifically as it relates to the coopting of black women's hair - has been a topic of major contention, with runway shows at Valentino, DSquared, and other brands being called out for inappropriate representations of minorities.  In 2016, we thought we had seen a significant improvement where an understanding of cultural appropriation is concerned, but last night, Marc Jacobs opened up a whole new can of worms at his Spring 2017 show.

Drawing inspiration from "80s Boys George, Marilyn Manson, and Club Kids," the designer sent his (mostly white) models down the runway wearing multicoloured dreadlocks.  As Fashionista points out, nowhere in the shownotes was black or Rastafarian culture credited for the inspiration, despite being the historical origin of locks in the West.  The reuse of hairstyles and symbols belonging to people of colour on the runway is problematic for many reasons, especially when the models that wear the look are white; we have read about people of colour being sent home from school or work for having locks, and yet when the look appears on white women, it is suddenly trendy and cool, without recognition of the historical and cultural significance.

Post-show, Jacobs engaged in an Instagram-comment-debate to defend his use of dreads, but ended up digging himself an even deeper hole:

"TO ALL WHO CRY 'CULTURAL APPROPRIATION' OR WHATEVER NONSENSE ABOUT ANY RACE OR SKIN COLOR WEARING THEIR HAIR IN ANY PARTICULAR STYLE OR MANNER- FUNNY HOW YOU DON'T CRITICIZE WOMEN OF COLOR FOR STRAIGHTENING THEIR HAIR. I RESPECT AND AM INSPIRED BY PEOPLE AND HOW THEY LOOK. I DON'T SEE COLOR OR RACE- I SEE PEOPLE. I'M SORRY TO READ THAT SO MANY PEOPLE ARE SO NARROW MINDED... LOVE IS THE ANSWER. APPRECIATION OF ALL AND INSPIRATION FROM ANYWHERE IS A BEAUTIFUL THING. THINK ABOUT IT"

Well, Marc, we did think about it, and while the idea of everyone being able to mutually share in diverse cultures does sound really nice, it doesn't reflect our contemporary reality.  The fact of the matter is, dreadlocks are still widely stigmatized in Western culture, often taking the form of employment discrimination and racial profiling.  Instead of contributing to this dialogue in a way that rejects this impression, by casting mostly white models, the use of dreadlocks in Jacobs' show last night disregards this fact and instead gives permission to the already privileged, power-holding group to borrow this symbol for themselves.


Secondly, Jacobs contends that black women straightening their hair would also be akin to cultural appropriation, when a) just like some white women can have curly hair, black women can have straight hair, and b) straight hair has long been forced on women of colour as a perpetuation of white beauty standards.  Even further, women of colour do get criticized, whether or not they chose to wear their hair curly or straight (which, by the way, they have every right to do -it's 2016, we should all be allowed a choice).

The collection itself was beautiful, but was unfortunately overshadowed by the major oversight in the choice of hairstyling, which has continued to grow more and more problematic in the hours since the show has passed.  Here were some of our highlights out of the garments and accessories used, sans appropriation:

...


Imagery c/o Marc Jacobs

Read more: For more from NYFW, check out our reviews of Yeezy Season 4 and Alexander Wang.  Then, discover how #BlackLivesMatter influences this exciting collection.



~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~
Tia Elisabeth Glista is the founding Editor in Chief of Couturesque Magazine.  She is also a textbook Taurus (ambitious, aesthetically-driven, very stubborn) who can at any given time be found listening to BANKS and looking at pictures of puppies.  Click here to follow her on Instagram. 
 

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I founded Couturesque Magazine when I was 15 years old because like many of my peers, I felt ignored and talked down to by all of the other teen fashion publications out there. I figured that at the end of the day, the people who knew the most about my generation, were the people who belonged to it. The fashion industry is becoming increasingly dependent on the creativity of younger voices who challenge the status quo and make us rethink what we wear and why we wear it. And that is exactly what Couturesque set out to celebrate - authenticity, intelligence, originality, and diversity... in other words, what makes Gen-Z tick. Fast-forward to 2016 and we now have a staff of more than a dozen fashion distruptors contributing to our daily content from all around the globe, 100K+ readers following us from Toronto to New York, to London, Copenhagen, Berlin, Tokyo, and Tel Aviv, and a plethora of big-wig industry fans and collaborators. But what matters to us the most is the responsibility that our publication has to make a positive impact in the lives of those who come across it - we stand against retouching our photoshoots and we stand for sharing the beautiful, individual, complex voices of everyone, especially those who feel marginalized by mainstream fashion media. We hope that you love our site as much as we do and that you take the time to follow us (Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest / Tumblr / Snapchat / YouTube) throughout our journey to make fashion accessible to the powerful young adults of today.

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Editor in Chief