as the great coco chanel (RIP) once said: i don’t do fashion, i am fashion
you will need to be extremely passionate about what you do (or want to do). have a GREAT work ethic and be willing to work for next to nothing. if you’re a creative-type you’re going to be offered endless amounts of jobs which people will promise you “exposure” in return for. this will look suspiciously like working for free. additionally you will need to have great interpersonal skills and be good at networking, plus probably have some kind of personal style.
or you will need a trust fund
Okay, so I got this question a few days ago and didn’t really have a solid answer for a couple of reasons.
The first being that I am not Native-American and have never had any direct association to that culture. For me to give an opinion on something I know nothing about beyond what I’ve read on the internet, well, I don’t feel qualified. There are a few designers, whose work I really admire and whose collections have been met with critical acclaim, who are well-known for “borrowing” from other cultures. John Galliano instantly comes to mind. Should this “borrowing” from other cultures simply not be done, or is the key in the execution? As a white New Zealander, I find it hard to know where the line should be drawn. I do think that whether or not Karl Lagerfeld, who is a German, Paris-based designer, knew whether the headdress would upset is irrelevant in this situation. People who are part of this culture have already expressed that what Chanel did was insulting.
What actually prompted me to answer this question now is Chanel’s “apology” they issued. I use the word apology lightly because in this case it was more of a “sorry if you were offended” (classic sorry we’re not sorry!) I find it hard to believe that no one in the Chanel camp would have thought this might not be a good idea!
What this proves is the immunity the fashion believes it has to ANY kind of criticism. Back here once again, they are able to get away with almost anything and all that needs to be said is “oops!” Fashion may have become more accessible in the last decade but it is still very different to the music and entertainment industries in the way it operates and is consumed. With this accessibility there has evidently been even further restriction in other ways - fashion brands believe they can pick and choose what exposure they receive, and warp their public image to their liking. (Imran Amed recently wrote on this exact topic). The problem we have as a result of this is that there are not many great fashion critics out there who are challenging the ideals and what the people with power are saying and doing.
Back to cultural appropriation –it’s important to note that this doesn’t start with the drunk white girl at the party wearing a traditional headdress or a bindi. It starts with designers like Karl Lagerfeld, filters to Victoria’s Secret, down to H&M, and so on. It’s a cycle and it begins at the top. Whether you agree that the Chanel Pre-fall show is offensive or not this kind of discussion is always healthy and good and I hope it continues, especially when major fashion publications are not going to contest any of the industry’s faults.