Chanel staged a Texas-sized pre-fall show in Dallas on Tuesday night, and, like most productions Karl Lagerfeld puts on, it was an over-the-top affair. The collection, shown in a barn-like space at Dallas’ Fair Park, was clearly inspired by the wild west, with cowboy boots and hats, turquoise jewelry, blanket coats and fringes galore playing a huge part in the show.
Another pervasive theme was Navajo prints and American Indian-inspired accessories, which have proven to be a very touchy subject in the fashion industry in recent years. The final two looks of the show featured white, feathered headdresses — the very same style that caused a major controversy at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in 2012 when Karlie Kloss wore one for the Calendar Girls segment to represent Thanksgiving. Not only did both Kloss and Victoria’s Secret issue apologies for being racially insensitive, the brand removed her look from the show’s national telecast.
The whole “cowboys and Indians” thing Chanel went for is cute in theory, but with all of the controversy that’s raised season after season about cultural appropriation in the fashion industry, we’re honestly shocked that those headdresses were given the thumbs up to walk down the runway. The thing that we find most troubling about this the fact that, despite how many groups have voiced their disapproval, this keeps happening.
“It” girls like Poppy Delevingne are praised by the likes of French Vogue for their festival style after wearing feathered headdresses to Coachella. Similarly, young stars like Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens raised ire for wearing Hindu bindis this year, but despite the backlash, we’ve seen the tiny jewels worn as accessories in nightclubs and on the streets of New York more and more frequently.
Finally, we’ve seen the same pattern with blackface in fashion, from editorials glamorizing it to out-of-touch editors using it in their Halloween costumes. When the inevitable backlash arrives, a feeble attempt at an excuse or explanation is usually made in tandem with an apology, yet it seems to happen on a monthly basis. Dolce & Gabbana also found itself in hot water after showing a Spring 2013 collection with blackamoor “Mammy” earrings and portraits of slave-era black women on the garments. And who could forget that Italian Vogue “Slave Earrings” shopping story?
We know that Lagerfeld was inspired by the American West for this collection, and yes, Native Americans played a huge role there both historically and today, with over 20 different tribes making Texas their home. But, as a group that faced so much hardship (from slavery to slaughter), you’d think that designers and tastemakers would be a bit more sensitive to their comments and their desire to stop seeing their cultural symbols used as a passing trend. Also, we’re wondering if fashion people are numb to it at this point: We don’t recall any of the show’s attendees tweeting about the headdresses during the show on Tuesday night, but we’re hoping that they raised at least a few eyebrows.
Tell us: Are you offended by Chanel’s use of headdresses in the Métiers d’Art show? And are you as flabbergasted that this keeps happening as we are?