Designers find inspiration any and everywhere. As of late, they have taken to finding inspiration in culturally significant African pieces. Louis Vuitton’s new fashion trend sees him turning the Basotho blanket, worn by the Basotho people who are indigenous to Lesotho, into the latest menswear. The designer did the same thing in 2012 with his spring/summer men’s collection being inspired by the Massai tribe located in Kenya and Tanzania. One of the main issues in this regard is that whilst Louis Vuitton’s pieces quickly sell out, the tribes which inspire said pieces rarely get compensated. Which begs the question, is it cultural appropriation or appreciation?
Cultural appropriation is seen as when a majority group adopts elements of a minority’s group’s culture. Often than not, the majority group either grossly misrepresents these elements or claims them as their own and thus profits greatly from it.
Wearing blackface is wrong. Dressing up as a nineties rap artists for Halloween whilst waving around toy guns is wrong. These actions have less to do with appreciating the culture and more to do with reinforcing negative stereotypes. In 2013, Katy Perry performed a love song dressed as a Geisha. She claimed that she was appreciating the culture but many saw her as reinforcing the stereotype that Asian women are submissive and acquiescent.
The Kardashian family have consistently been accused of cultural appropriation. A most recent example is that of Kendall and Kylie Jenner. The youngest members of the Kardashian clan released tee shirts that had their Instagram images overlapping on pictures of music legends, most notably rap icons Tupac and Notorious BIG. The shirts were being sold for $125(R1629). The sisters were accused of cultural appropriations as they tried to profit off of the music legends whilst, most likely, being oblivious to their cultural significance in the black community.
With that being said, cultural appropriation can be seen as a myth because there is no such thing as an original culture as culture is ever evolving. In 1962, Marshall McLuhan spoke of a global village and in 2017; this has come to pass with images of different cultures plastered all over the Internet. Even before the age of technology, cultures continued to integrate. It’s understandable to want to preserve your identity but that said identity has borrowed from many other places.
There is anger not because Khloe Kardashian has Bantu knots. There is anger because people applaud Khloe Kardashian for having Bantu knots whilst one was most likely mocked for it. The same goes for dreadlocks.
The best thing to do to ease tensions is to educate. The people who are accused of cultural appropriation are most likely curious and ignorant to the meanings associated with the hairstyles or garments that they are wearing. They are guiltier of shallow application as opposed to cultural application.