Fashion trends are fluid. They change every season as soon as the fashion industry decides what's in and out.
While I'm not a fashionista, I do enjoy a stylish look every now and then. There are some very cute patterns and styles out there, but there are also offensive trends. First let me begin with defining cultural appropriation, according to this article published by ZineLibrary.info.
"Cultural appropriation is the adoption or theft of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, and behavior from one culture or subculture by another" (pg. 3). In terms of fashion, it means taking ones culture and displaying it as a style for yourself without considering where it came from, erasing its history.
"Aztec" prints on handbags and clothes are quite popular these days. These products are being sold to mass consumers, most of whom don't know where the pattern originated. All they know is that it is cute and would go really well with that top or those shoes.
What consumers may not know is that these patterns originated from Mexico. "Aztec" refers to ethnic groups from central Mexico, most known is the group that held empire in Tenochtitlan. These patterns are cultural artifacts.
Let's consider that these cultural artifacts were made for trade and for consumption to sustain these ethnic groups' economies.
However much it is sold today, the manufacturers aren't "true producers" of this pattern. How much, if any, of the profits are being given to those who originated the pattern?
What's sad is that consumers don't care to know about the pattern and where it came from. To them, it's what's in today and possibly out tomorrow.
Photo Credit: tumblr.com
But how do you deal with culture appropriation when some could argue that a holiday like Halloween allows it? I've read plenty of articles and blog posts where one of the most commonly appropriated culture for Halloween is that of Native Americans. People who identify with Native American cultures feel could feel oppressed because to them, there's someone 'greater' taking their culture and displaying it as their clever, or sometimes even sexy, costume. The argument against this is usually something like, "But it's Halloween, I don't mean to offend anyone," or, "Don't be so sensitive."
I think that's it, consumers don't think about the offense. They think about the item as a product.
They don't care who made it. If they did, it would be appreciating other cultures rather than appropriating them.
Photo Credit: clicket.com
I have pointed out to some friends that there are some fashion trends that offend other people. I advise them to think about what they're consuming. If they really like Aztec patterned pieces, why not buy from original manufacturers? I understand where a beautiful print like this comes from. I've got a great little purse with a pattern from Mexico. I know where it came from and appreciate it. I use it proudly.
Have you seen an example of culture appropriation among your peers?
Are you offended, how do you deal with it?