Every single year, every single season, designers use inspirations from an array of cultural references. And every single year, every single season, an article about “cultural appropriation” pops up to make us feel bad about appreciating the beauty of cultures we do not adhere to.
To me, this is becoming a matter of societal divide. When people cannot speak their mind or use their brains because of social “convention”, this attacks our freedom of speech and individual thought. This is not a good way to go to achieve any kind of prosperity in the future. What I am about to write only attempts to appeal to your humanity. Do you really want to connect with your peers? Then learn about them.
▽ Nobody is denigrating your culture
Some people are offended by the lack of knowledge of their peers when it comes to different cultures. I am Lebanese and in the 10 years I have been living in Europe, believe me, I have heard some gems over the years, but I was never truly offended by people’s comments. I found myself laughing at their ignorance, and that was it.
I tried to make a point that my country is beautiful, and yes we do have milk, and no we don’t go to work on camels, and no I did not spend my life in a tent in the desert. Really that was it. I also realised people are genuinely interested in what I had to say.
So before getting offended, take a minute to remember that most educational systems like the ones in the UK and the US are actually not great, and that geography and history and general knowledge are not really offered to a student, and that not knowing doesn’t necessarily mean people are racist or trying to offend you. Some people just don’t know.
▽ Multiculturalism is a massive part of globalism
Today, the biggest social development facing fashion and art is globalism. The world is interconnected and familiarity with different cultures and facility with diversity are essential. There is an understanding that there is work to be done when it comes to reconciling the European intellectual origins and its colonialist legacy. However, in an increasingly multicultural, internationally-geared world, the spread and influence of culture should be celebrated, not made shameful. In these difficult times, should we not be focusing on coming together, rather than trying to be divisive?
Building walls around cultures seems almost dangerous. Celebrating cultural diversity should be the main goal as opposed to putting people in boxes. This is the 21st century and sorry to burst your bubbles, but ethic ‘purity’ is not nonsense.
▽ Inspiration should not be confined to a box
Let’s be honest here; inspiration comes from everywhere and everything – as it should! If you know how to research for a fashion collection, then you know the designer and their team have to go above and beyond to find inspiration and a real design focus. Inspiration can be anything, anywhere, anyone. Imagine being confined to the limits of what you are and what you know. So let’s say, I am Lebanese, in my 20s, with curly hair, middle class and I like, for argument’s sake, car tyres. If all my collections focused on that, I would be creating a whole lot of care tyre garments paraded on Lebanese models, and if I dared to reference lower class ways of life, I would be destroyed in the media.
Limits are dangerous. They can stall the growth and knowledge of a generation. It can stunt the beauty, refinement and wonder of art. What is the point of looking at something that you know? What will be left there to learn?
Refinery 29 posed the question “How can you be genuinely inspired by something without fully engaging with the ideals behind it? And at what point does it become fetishization instead of appreciation?” I say yes. A belief, a religion, a culture does not have to be embraced for it to be respected. If you want to discuss the fact that something can become fetishised, then I don’t care who uses it, one would have to look at why hijabs are used on the runway of a Muslim designer, or why is using the Christian cross ok for fashion purposes, but not a bindi? Was the use of the dragon in the Gucci show culturally appropriate the Khalesi culture. How far does this go? If you want to ban the use of culture in fashion, then ban it all, because I, for one, would not want my background and beliefs checked before I present a collection or an art piece. What has become of my freedom of expression?
Take a second to review what offends you. Is it really the turbans used at Gucci? Are dreadlocks on white models really offensive? Is a bindi really irresponsible? I’m starting to believe that people who agree with all this exaggeration are the only ones who are truly intolerant. As a Lebanese woman, I can honestly say that a collection inspired by Lebanese heritage would only do great things, and spread awareness about the lifestyle, the history and the culture. And in times when knowledge is at its lowest point, I can assure it will do more good than harm.
Let’s try to appreciate and celebrate different cultures. All we really have is each other. Embrace each other and stop making everyone feel bad for no serious reason. Have a conversation and actually listen. Seriously, who remembers the turbans in the Gucci show? I can only remember the dragon and severed heads. I mean, really I don’t think enough people care about this. I don’t care about it. I care about you impeding on my life, telling me what to think. Seriously, get over yourselves.