The trouble with Marc Jacobs


My first thoughts on the Marc Jacobs presentation at NYFW was that it was really cool. Like, jacquard oriental dress, technicolor patchwork trench coat, metallic separates and embroidered everything kinda cool. Beyond that, the casting was enough to elicit gaping mouths. Seeing Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid, Jourdan Dunn and the like make their rain dance on the runway in precarious seven-inch platforms and rainbow dreadlocks was a spectacle that—at first sight—made me think about how cool it all was for the fact that even though I couldn’t envision myself wearing anything resembling anything from the collection, my eyes were on the verge of popping out of their sockets. Blame it on all that color and all that jazz.

But I had to snap out of my initial fascination pretty quickly, because it didn’t take long for anyone to realise that in the course of his NYFW show Marc Jacobs had, like Justin Bieber and Kylie Jenner before him, engaged in the exploitation of black culture in their pursuit of gold stars and hype. Cultural appropriation, if you must. But it goes even further downhill. MJ himself hit back at naysayers, telling them that they’d do well to fuck off because black people rip off white people all the time anyway. Okay, so that wasn’t exactly what he said, but his response was as follows: 'all who cry “cultural appropriation” or whatever nonsense about any race of skin color wearing their hair in a particular style or manner - funny how you don’t criticize women of color for straightening their hair.’ 

A lesson in niceties for Mr. Jacobs: it doesn’t seem like the best idea to decorate your models with a hairstyle that was borne out of desire for easier maintenance of the specific crop of hair that comes with African genetics. More so when you lambast the same group of people afterward by accusing them of some sort of reverse cultural appropriation and making your contempt for them as clear as day. Then things just get really awkward, because you’re forgetting that they are often compelled to do that in order to not appear unkempt. Remember when Zendaya was torn apart by the fashion police for wearing dreadlocks on the red carpet? That’s how dreadlocks are received when worn by the very people from whom the practice originated. They don’t get praised for creativity, and you shouldn’t have expected to be. But I digress.

Some might say it’s just hair, and that we’re too trigger happy with slapping the term ‘cultural appropriation’ like a label of damnation over everything because we’re antagonistic and love watching the world burn. But when it comes to putting dreadlocks on white models on the runway, context is important, innit. This could’ve been okay if Marc Jacobs had casted mostly black models, and duly acknowledged the respective culture as a source of inspiration for his show, because not all hairstyles come clear of racial and cultural undertones. Definitely not locs. Sadly, that’s not how it all went. The clothes were pretty though.

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