Cultural Appropriation in Fashion?

So Pauline Hanson wore a burka to Parliament… wtf.

Yesterday a face-covered woman in traditional Islamic dress walked into Question Time in the Senate. Then a multitude of gasps was heard as the burka was removed and Senator Hanson revealed herself.

The act has been condemned by Labor and Greens senators, with Senator Penny Wong implying it to be a very disrespectful stunt.

“It is one thing to wear religious dress as a sincere act of faith, there is another to wear it as a stunt here in the chamber,” Senator Wong said.

So when is Cultural Appropriation in Fashion taken too far?

Chanel has recently been in the firing line for their recent release of a branded boomerang. Traditionally used as a weapon of the Australian Indigenous people, the boomerang has become a national icon in sport and entertainment. With the price tag sitting at over a thousand buckaroos, social media has blown up in outrage.

Gucci has called their recent cultural appropriation attempt ‘homage’ after being criticised for “knocking-off” a African-American fashion icon, Dapper Dan, in their new Cruise collection for 2018. Head designer Alessoandre Michelle has been called a ‘thief’ of black creatives.

But this isn’t knew, for decades designers, labels, brands and Hollywood have used forms of cultural appropriation in their pieces. From the Indian inspired bikinis in Victoria Secret Fashion Shows to Marc Jacobs’ white models with deadlocks, cultural appropriation is everywhere. But is it possible to take from another culture for creative purposes and not cause offense?

Zoya Patel, columnist for Vice magazine, claims designers are missing an essential ingredient.

“Their collections fail to meaningfully engage with this cultures which inspired them,” says Zoya.

“Here lies the problem with taking influence from a culture that isn’t your own: how do we balance the harms of cultural appropriation against harmless intentions?”

But, lets all conclude that Senator Hanson’s intentions were far from harmless. Whether they cause harm or not is yet to be determined.

And no, unfortunately the Chanel boomerang will not be available for rent on The Volte. But you can rent the Chanel 1991 Classic shoulder bag for an affordable price and not have to worry about offending anyone, win win!

The question still remains – cultural appropriation: progressive or backward? Now its up to you to do it right!


Madeline Palmer


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