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Opinion: Marc Jacobs fashion show: artistic expression or politically incorrect?

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Marc Jacobs had a fashion show that caused an uproar on social media about racial appropriation.

Marc Jacobs had a fashion show that caused an uproar on social media about racial appropriation.

Wikipedia Commons

Wikipedia Commons

Marc Jacobs had a fashion show that caused an uproar on social media about racial appropriation.

Marc Jacobs was the center of controversy when his fashion show for the 2017 spring/summer lines featured models wearing pastel dreadlocks with brown makeup/black face. As a black woman, I wasn’t offended when I heard about it because I interpreted it as his way of expressing himself through his art and nothing more. But when I listened to Jacob’s response to critics and learned that little to no women of color were used in his fashion show, I was offended and ashamed.

Dreadlocks are a staple in the black community and have been for thousands of years. Instead of crediting the black culture as his inspiration, he credits club kids, Marilyn Manson, Harajuku girls and Lana Wachowski. Even the people working with him gave Marc Jacobs credit for making locs look more sophisticated and fashionable, when before, it was considered street and raw. I found it insulting that it depicted locs as being unprofessional on a black person, yet it was boho chic when Marc Jacob featured them.

This wasn’t even the first time he failed to credit the black community. In his 2015 fashion show, he used bantu knots or what he calls “twisted mini buns” and again credited others for his inspiration instead of the people who actually created them. Even in his line of foundations, Jacobs demonstrates how he can be blind to dark skin. Out of the 22 shades he includes in his line of foundation, only one is for colored women.

As soon as the first runway model walked out, social media blew up. It might have passed over, but after someone had suggested that using more women of color would have been better, Marc Jacobs lashed out on social media. On a twitter post, Jacobs responded to critics by saying, “all who cry ‘cultural appropriation’ or whatever nonsense about any race of skin color wearing their hair in any particular style or manner – funny how you don’t criticize women of color for straightening their hair,” he wrote.

When I read that, I could no longer defend his fashion show as artistic, but now viewed it as an insult to the black community. Not only did he fail to give proper recognition to the black community for the inspiration of locs, but he responds to his criticism with an attack on the black culture.

Straight hair is not a cultural appropriation. The societal norm forces black women to assimilate to the “dominant” culture that punishes and keeps black women from wearing their natural curls. I know from personal experiences that there are black women out there that are getting fired from their jobs because their curls or locs are viewed as unprofessional. I’ve read stories where little kids have gotten kicked out of school because they refused to put their hair in a bun or straighten it.

Tayjah Deleveaux started a movement called #supportthepuff after her high school, C.R. Walker Senior High School, chastised her for her natural hair, according to an article on the news website Grio. There are black girls in South Africa that are fighting against a neo-colonial culture to be able to wear their hair naturally, as said in a CNN broadcast.

Instead of seeing his mistake and making an honest apology, Jacobs pulled the “I don’t see race” card in his apology. His “apology” just shows that Jacobs does not understand his own actions or the issues that accompany them.  

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Opinion: Marc Jacobs fashion show: artistic expression or politically incorrect?