Cultural Appropriation in the Fashion Industry - Look at the print above. What would you call it? Some label it with the vague titles of “ethnic” or “tribal”. Others will narrow it further with “African”. While others call it, with surprising frequency, the offensive “barbarian”.
It’s actually called a “dutch wax print” and had little to do with Africa before the 19th century. I knew the latter fact only because I grew up around many west and east African families who when returning from their homelands with fabric and other exports never brought back anything looking like this. In fact, the first time I saw a print like this was in Chinatown.
The deeper I go into the fashion industry, the more I see this. The designers and production staff know exactly what they’re working with. They would be able to tell you the technical name of the fabric, the country from where it came from, the history behind it, its chemical properties, etc. because it inspired them enough to include it in their collection and means something to them, but somewhere along the way, mostly after production, it gets lost. When it is sold to the public, it becomes whatever is easiest to sell at the moment (i.e. “tribal”, “ethnic”, “safari”, etc.).
I would love to see more of these stories told and even challenge brands to connect directly to the source through partnerships and community projects. You may be using it for just one season, but these generations of tradition, craftsmanship and cultural pride existed well before your collection.