In the latest string of Hollywood and haute couture instances of cultural appropriation, Marc Jacobs SS15 runway featured white models sporting bantu knots, a black hairstyle.
Bantu Knots, a black hairstyle, consists of sections of hair twisted tightly against the head. The hairstyle is protective hairstyle created by the Bantu, or Zulu, people of Africa.
How does this hairstyle, a clearly culturally significant black hairstyle, comes to find itself on Marc Jacobs’ runway without a single black model in sight?
The fashion industry is no stranger to borrowing from black fashion. In 2014, Chanel attempted to borrow durags under the guise of “the urban cap.” In early 2015, stylist Riccardo Tischi pasted baby hairs on Givenchy’s non-black and non-latin@ models as an ode to “chola fashion.”
However, to add insult to injury, fashion blog Mane Addicts praised Marc Jacobs models’ “twisted mini buns” and offered a bantu knot tutorial as inspired by the models.
The Mane Addicts’ article rekindled social media’s discussion of cultural borrowing, particularly in Hollywood and the fashion industry. This round’s critique, which focused on the injustices of cultural borrowing, was posted on Twitter under the hashtag #IWillNotShare.
Since the social media storm surrounding Mane Addicts and Marc Jacobs’ models, a handful of news outlets concerning fashion and black culture, such as The Fashion Spot, Tea & Breakfast , Atlanta Black Star and Paper Mag, have touched upon Marc Jacobs’ fashion faux-pas. Additionally, Mane Addicts’ article has since been deleted.
Last but not least, Marc Jacobs has issued a statement via Twitter.
While serial appropriators such as Kylie Jenner and Miley Cyrus ought to take note the next time they feel like stealing someone’s culture to be edgy, Marc Jacobs never apologized for their cultural appropriation – they merely acknowledged it.
Like most of the prominent fashion houses, Marc Jacobs also has a long way to go when it comes to racial diversity. The best way to fix the backlash that faces the fashion industry in light of cultural appropriation would be to either go back to the aesthetic drawing board or give the look more authenticity by increasing representation. There’s a fine line between cultural appreciation and appropriation.