Culture Is Not A Fashion Statement


Cultural appropriation, though a particularly hot topic in today’s day and age, has long been a problematic aspect of fashion, celebrity influence, and media in general. Pham’s piece made me look at the issue in a new light, as I have typically fallen victim to the redundant and never-ending debate of cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation. Pham’s explanation of the Indonesian plaid example made me realize that it is easy to identify cultural appropriation and express your disapproval, but there is so much more to it than that.

Moreover, the keywords for this week are particularly relevant to Pham’s article. Specifically, I believe that the term “othering” is really important in regards to the appropriation of cultures, as it is essentially stealing and exploiting “desirable” aspects of a culture, while excluding the actual people who are apart of said culture. For example, girls wearing Native American headdresses, feathers, and face paint, white-owned clothing brands selling bindis as accessories, or Kim Kardashian sporting cornrows (and calling them “Bo Derek” braids instead). I agree with Pham that the issue should not be deciding what is appropriation and what is appreciation, but rather an effect to initiate a dialogue that draws more attention to the broader issue of the unfair power structure in the high fashion system, as well as the things that go unnoticed when “white Western creators swipe from elsewhere.

In my video, I tried to visualize Pham’s point that the debate over appropriation is not solving the problem. The video I included at the beginning was a live performance of Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Girls. Stefani has been criticized for her exploitation of the dancers, as well as the culture she is capitalizing on, seen in the video. Over the audio of the 2004 song, I included more recent photos of celebrities, films, and models wearing certain designers who have received criticism for their appropriation of different cultures. I felt that breaking up the photos to include more of the quote I chose illustrated the fact that, even though every instance the photos represent were publicly criticized for their use of cultural symbols, people, designers, producers, musicians, and so many more, continue to appropriate cultures. I ended the video with a black screen and voiceover, hopefully making the viewer listen to the final quote that sums up Pham’s argument.