For Chanel's Pre-Fall 2014 show, designer Karl Lagerfeld took inspiration from two cities that are rarely mentioned in the same breath: Paris and Dallas. The former is the birthplace of haute couture; the latter is best known for its football team and Texan charm. With such a gimmicky concept, certain aspects of the collection were bound to be contrived and borderline offensive. Such as: the American Indian bride suit, complete with feather headdress, which closed out the show.
Brands, pay attention: Stop fetishizing Native attire. In the U.S., American Indians were victims of a mass genocide and today, many Native communities struggle with high rates of drug and alcohol addiction, poverty and crime. Feathered headdresses are sacred items for spiritual rituals; using them as fashion statement fodder perpetuates the same erasure that Native people have faced for centuries.
But that's just my opinion. When the look above appeared in the forums, the response was immediate:
"I was wondering if anyone would mention the cultural appropriation," said pixiedust1603.
"Isn't that the essence of his pre-collections? Let's travel to some country/city, Google about the culture, make themed outfits, wrap it in tweed and voilà," said Marc10. "Anyway, this looks terribly predictable and ugly."
"So is anyone allowed to be inspired by cultures other than their own, then?" asked Dior_Couture1245. "I take far more offense to the fact that the clothes are revoltingly hideous."
LabelWhore4: "Those headdresses are sacred to many tribes and hold deep spiritual/religious meanings. They're not just meant to be pretty."
OliverForever: "The thing about the headdress that upsets me is how it lightheartedly mocks people who were slaughtered en masse throughout the colonial times. The headdress is not like a bindi or a beaded necklace, they signify rank and bring back painful memories of patriotism. 'I killed the savage and now I'm wearing their funny hat,' is the message this has. I am incredibly disappointed and will no longer support Chanel."
"One can also say it's a cultural appropriation when models wear cowboy-inspired outfits," argued Lax89. "Is anyone going to say it's racist? I doubt it."
A rebuttal from OliverForever: "Those poor cowboys, victims of anti-cowboy genocide and of course the 'trail of cowboy tears.'"
Lax89 comes back: "I'm not denying any of the history of the Indian people and what happened is completely wrong but a collection inspired by a culture is not always racist, at least to me. I see it as a homage. And frankly, those headpieces won't be worn by anyone besides models in photoshoots. It's not like we're going to see everyday people parading in headpieces like those."
MyNameIs had extended response for Lagerfeld's critics:
"Crosses are 'sacred' and 'hold deep spiritual religious meanings' to a lot of people. Those religious icon images that have showed up on dresses are 'sacred' and 'hold deep spiritual religious meanings' to a lot of people. Was anyone 'offended'?
…. This is something I've never understood. What do past wrongs have to do with a fashion collection today? And why is paying an homage to a culture a bad thing? When did it become a bad thing? Are people in Europe as trigger-happy to start complaining about it, or is this just an American thing?
Karl did a Russian collection a few years back. Russian/Slavic people have suffered all kinds of tragedies too, did anyone complain about that? And as a Slavic person myself, I personally wasn't offended by it either. Why is it usually the people who aren't even in the given group that seem to be the most 'offended' by the whatever currently hip insensitivity taking place?"
LabelWhore4 replied: "When was the last time people who hold crosses so sacred were the victims of genocide? When [was] the last time they were made to live on some of the worst pieces of land in a huge nation? When is the last time the government actively refused to provide any type of social and financial aid to said group? Hmmm? By all means, go out of your way to not get it but that doesn't make this collection any less wrong. But its okay because its fashion, huh?"
Phuel had a different perspective: "It's Lagefeld. It's hard to find him politically and socially offensive since he's so stunningly clueless. His 'creative' process is so utterly predictable: Dallas = Rodeos = Cowboys = Cowboys & Indians. I think that's about it."
There's way more argument where that came from in the tFS Forums — check it out. If you're not a member, you can share your opinion below.