Cultural Appropriation:

A Problem In the Fashion Industry

By LINH NGUYEN | February 29, 2020

Illustration by Photo by Robert Metz on Unsplash

Cultural appropriation has always been a sensitive topic for the fashion community. Awareness of the problem has been on the rise in recent years, but despite its immense sensitivity, not all designers and fashion houses seem to care about it. 


Not to name-drop, but as of late, Jeremy Scott, the creative director of Moschino and the Chinese NF Tiger brand, has become one of the most recent perpetrators of cultural appropriation. 


During Jeremy Scott’s creative decision-making, Moschino has come under fire for many insensitive campaign and runway choices. Moschino has a long running history of cultural appropriation, most notable is an incident in 2017. Jeremy Scott was called out for putting white models in dreadlocks on the runway for the September show. This was a cause for concern as dreadlocks have always been an important part of the African culture. Taking the racial implications into consideration, Jeremy Scott was incredibly insensitive to style white models this way.


With the brand being targeted for Jeremy’s choices, one would expect Moschino to better critically assess their designs through multiple perspectives before launch. However, in turning a blind eye against these critiques, the problem continues to grow within the fashion house. 


Problems of cultural appropriation are sadly spreading East as well. The Chinese Fashion Week, taking place right before the new year of 2020, afforded Chinese fashion designers the platform and opportunity to showcase their art and creativity. It is unfortunate that NF Tiger decided to claim the Vietnamese traditional gown (Ao Dai) as part of its “Chinese style” collection. As a Vietnamese woman, I was outraged by the manipulation. The Ao Dai represents the pride and beauty of Vietnamese culture, and for it to be appropriated by a Chinese brand without any credit or public reference was absolutely horrendous and ignorant. By doing so, NF Tiger stripped away the long history and culture of the Vietnamese people. 


Culture is a concept which holds great value to us as human beings; it grounds us. Therefore, cultural appropriation needs to be taken seriously. By defining us, it consequently influences us as well. Being ignorant and taking someone else’s culture under the name of fashion is, simply put, unacceptable. 


Fashion brands need to take serious measures to ensure that their designs are not sensitive to any culture. Although, designers evidently have the right to freely express themselves by drawing on external influences from other cultures, in outlining limits, it will not give them the right to claim cultural aspects as their own.

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