By Martha Ugwu
NEW YORK, Sept. 19 – Marc Jacobs has been under a great amount of scrutiny online after closing out New York Fashion Week with a show that included predominantly white models sporting colorful faux dreadlocks, which had many critics accusing the designer of cultural appropriation.
Jacobs’s controversial decision to style the models in such a way without giving any credit to the culture from which it originated has sparked a serious debate on the use of “creative inspiration” as an excuse for cultural appropriation.
Many critics expressed disapproval of the blatant rip-off of a hairstyle that is mainly attributed to Afro-Caribbean culture without any credit given to its origins.
When Guido Palau, the hairstylist responsible for the hair at the fashion show, was asked if the look was inspired by Rastafarian culture, he replied, “No, not at all.”
Instead, the original inspiration for the hair included raver culture, Boy George, Harajuku, and American film director Lana Wachowski’s signature pink locs.
However, the backlash reached a new high when Jacobs took to Instagram to defend his actions, which only created a whole new wave of criticism aimed at the designer.
Using the handle @themarcjacobs, he responded to his critics with the following statement: “And all who cry “cultural appropriation” or whatever nonsense about any race of skin color wearing their hair in a particular style or manner – funny how you don’t criticize women of color for straightening their hair. I respect and am inspired by people and how they look. I don’t see color or race- I see people. I’m sorry to read that so many people are so narrow minded…Love is the answer. Appreciation of all and inspiration from anywhere is a beautiful thing. Think about it.”
Many people voiced their reactions to his comment on Twitter, pointing out his failure to understand the sentiment behind the criticism.
One user, @ArabianNittess, wrote: “#marcjacobs doesn’t know the difference between #assimilation and #culturalappropation which is why he can’t ‘see color.’”
After Jacobs posted a link to a Time Magazine article titled “Don’t Rage Over Dreadlocks While African Americans Are Dying in the Streets” on his Instagram page, another user, @LeslieMac, started a thread of tweets that exposed Jacobs’s poor track record of speaking on issues faced by African-Americans in the United States.
Beauty Youtuber Jackie Aina also provided commentary on the Marc Jacobs controversy in a video titled “Marc Jacobs You Tried It!” which can be viewed here.
In the video, Aina expressed her disappointment in the fact that Jacobs decided not to use the theme of his fashion show as a way of spreading more social awareness of black culture and noted the lack of praise that women of color receive when they sport their natural hair in public.
After the initial uproar from his fashion show, Jacobs posted an update on his Instagram page on Sunday.
In a caption under a photo that reads, “I HAVE READ ALL YOUR COMMENTS …” he wrote: “…and I thank you for expressing your feelings. I apologize for the lack of sensitivity unintentionally expressed by my brevity. I wholeheartedly believe in freedom of speech and freedom to express oneself though art, clothes, words, hair, music…EVERYTHING. Of course I do “see” color but I DO NOT discriminate. THAT IS A FACT! Please continue to express your feelings freely but do it kindly. Nothing is gained from spreading hate by name calling and bullying.”