You know that saying, “Make art, not war?”
Well, Marc Jacobs did the opposite of that.
New York Fashion Week was two weeks ago and Marc Jacobs’s runway was full of fashion-forward art pieces, but those looks came at a cost — exploiting cultural appropriation and racial insensitivity.
Models sported white dreadlocks while wearing Jacobs’s spring and summer lines of 2017 clothing, bags, shoes and accessories.
Dreadlocks, better known by the more derogatory term “dreads,” are intentionally matted or uncombed ropes of hair.
Although the exact origin of dreadlocks is unknown, they are seen as a universal symbol of spirituality and are known to convey the message that vanity and physical appearances are unimportant, according to Raging Roots Studio.
Dreadlocks are also worn by Egyptians, Greeks, Jews, Christians, Germanic Tribes, African Americans and Indians.
After an uproar ensued on multiple social media platforms, Jacobs responded by saying, “I don’t see color or race — I see people.”
Rather than admitting his wrongdoing for using a cultural symbol as “high fashion,” Jacobs used colorblindness as an excuse and tried to deflect the anger directed toward him by saying, “Love is the answer.”
Jacobs probably thought that claiming to not see color, he would be seen as progressive and inclusive for using an artform to express beauty across cultures, races and ethnicities.
This was deeply flawed thinking; committing acts of cultural appropriation is always a failed endeavor.
Saying one doesn’t see color eradicates the identity of people of color and makes it seem as though having color is a bad thing. Cue the racist onslaught, and cue the silencing people of color.
Jacobs says he doesn’t see color, while the variety of skin tone colors that his makeup line offers — 16 to be exact — indicates otherwise.
Artists need to use New York Fashion Week, an event that is as widely watched and idolized, to advocate for social justice and equality — not to take a symbolic marker of a culture, race or religion and deem it trendy.
Yes, we are living in 2016, but I guarantee that if Jacobs tried to pull this “fashion forward” stunt during the Civil Rights movement, no one would want to wear a hairstyle that belonged to a race that was seen as inferior.
Back in July, fashion blogger and stylist Hannah Stoudemire organized a protest of Men’s Fashion Week to show that no major designers or houses had yet expressed condolences for the black lives lost or acknowledged that black lives matter.
Jacobs’s cultural theft and social media mess-up emphasizes Stoudemire’s point clearly: Jacobs’s response suggests that the complaints of Jacobs’s colored fans, as well as their cultural contributions, don’t matter.
Artists and designers worship their creative processes, pulling inspiration from a diverse spectrum of cultural and historical influences.
But giving proper and respectful credit doesn’t take away from the value of that creative process.
By Jacobs refusing to mention African-American culture in the discussion of his use of dreadlocks on his runway, the fashion industry failed to uphold what it so viciously aims for: uniqueness.
As entertainment correspondent Amy Zimmerman said, “Designers are already struggling to cast diverse shows. If the fashion industry doesn’t want to pay black models, the least they can do is pay respect to the trends and styles they’re co-opting.”
My message to Jacobs: Don’t use fashion — or any art form, for that matter — to perpetuate racist ideology and agendas.