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Cult Melbourne Label P.A.M. Called Out for Banal Cultural Appropriation

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Cult label P.A.M. might be about to lose some of its street cred thanks to an accusatory Vimeo clip.

About a week ago, a video titled ‘p.a.m (it’s a white thing too)’ was uploaded to YouTube’s more sophisticated cousin by an anonymous user attempting to name and shame the beloved Melbourne brand as racist.

"For a group of people who freely use African textile patterns and traditional ornaments, put on performances using didgeridoos and dot painting, and casually deface images of black people, you might think they have some personal connection to the cultures they have profited from," the video states. "But they are just as white as their $150 T-shirts. T-shirts which are cheaply made in China, but have the labels removed and replaced with 'Made In Australia.'"

The video then calls out the National Gallery of Victoria for displaying their “banal cultural appropriation” in their foyer. “Perks and Mini – for when you’re privileged and you’re bored. Bored of being white,” the video concludes.

While Native American culture has seemed to bear the brunt of fashion’s obsession with cultural appropriation over the last few years, thanks to Coachella and the Navajo “trend,” there has been a heightened awareness of sartorial racism as of late. Celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Lily Allen have been called out for picking and choosing elements of black street culture, and Katy Perry learned the hard way that Geisha costume is a surefire shortcut to social media bloodletting. And let’s not even get started on the Halloween/blackface debacle.

With this heightened customer awareness of cultural appropriation in fashion, YOLO is no longer an acceptable attitude to take towards racial context. And as The Vine's Jake Cleland points out, insouciance is a big part of P.A.M.’s design aesthetic. In an interview with Meander Journal, designers Shauna Toohey and Misha Hollenbach described their process thusly: "We're interested in things that are steeped in mystery, things that cannot be explained. If you believe that a giant serpent vomited up the cosmos, then it sounds cool to us, regardless of whether it happened or not."

We get that mystery can be visually pleasing, but that’s the sartorial equivalent of a kanji tattoo that translates to “egg roll.” C’mon, guys—no one ever called out a label for being too sensitive to cultural context.  

Perks and Mini have yet to respond. 

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