Marc Jacobs has been in the news recently for his New York Fashion Week runway show. His collection was said to be inspired by Boy George, Harajuku girls, and director, Lana Wachowski. The actual clothing and accessories weren’t the subject of discussion. What has everyone talking is that the hairstyle of choice for the team of mostly white models were dreadlocks. A style created (and made) for black hair.
A lot of black women called him out on this, and questioned why he took a hairstyle made by and for black people, but chose to feature mostly white models. His response, was that he is inspired by “people, and how they look.” He also said that it’s funny that people don’t call out black women for straightening their hair and trying to look white. And he closed up his statement with the same old, “I don’t see color, love is the answer” message that we’ve all heard time and time again.
Now, I think that in a perfect world, this wouldn’t be such a big deal. I think people would be able to consciously share cultures and create that “melting pot” that America is supposed to be. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. “Melting Pot” America doesn’t really exist. We live in a world where there is a very specific beauty standard that excludes a lot of people. In the world we live in, there is also big stigma against black women and their hair. For example, when Zendaya went on the red carpet with her locs, someone commented on her, saying she probably smelled like poluchi oil and weed. It isn’t fair that a style that black people came up with is “ugly”, “unprofessional” or “dirty” on us, and “edgy”, “freethinking” and “groundbreaking” on anyone else.
And by the way, black girls straightening their hair is not the same thing as white girls wearing dreads. Most black girls straighten their hair because they are told by the media, or sometimes by their schools or places of work that their natural hair is not desirable or professional. So, when a black girl straightens her hair, it is a way of assimilating, so she can fit in with what is deemed socially acceptable. It’s not cultural appropriation, it’s a way of making it easier to fit in with the majority
when Marc Jacobs and the show’s hairstylist were asked if it had any African or Rastafarian influence, they both denied it. Which is ridiculous, because then where did locs come from??? A big part of sharing cultures is giving credit to those cultures you’re taking from. I feel that if Marc Jacobs is truly “inspired by people”, he’d either know where locs originated, or give credit where credit is due.
Marc Jacobs gave the famous “I don’t see color” statement that I’ve heard over and over, and frankly, I’m tired of hearing it! Being black isn’t the problem! I love being black, and I don’t want to feel shamed about loving it while you insist you’re “colorblind”. What that tells me is that that person doesn’t want to acknowledge the differences people of color face. Also, if Marc Jacobs “doesn’t see color”, then why is his runway show mostly white models? If he doesn’t see race or color, he should have no problem with adding more WOC to his runway show. However if he did, the people who buy his things would think of this line as a line that isn’t “universal” or “relatable”. (Even though girls of color have to relate to forms of mass media that sometimes include only white girls) So, it seems to me that Marc Jacobs does see color, because he knows that if his line was only black girls, or only women of color, his line wouldn’t sell as well as he’d like. (even though, I haven’t really heard of Marc Jacobs’ stuff being popular since 2005…)
Overall, I’m just very tired of people who are called out for being problematic and furiously deny it, and disregard the explanations or experiences of their customers. I’m also sick of cultural appropriation in fashion. If designers want to take influences from black culture and not giving credit. (like that one trainwreck runway show that had all white models strutting down the catwalk to Formation…) I think there were very simple ways to handle this situation, before, and after the runway show. But Marc Jacobs didn’t do any of them.