Let's Discuss the Hair at Valentino's Spring Show

The collection was Africa-themed — yet there were fewer than 10 black models.
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Alyssa Vingan Klein
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The collection was Africa-themed — yet there were fewer than 10 black models.

At the risk of sounding like "The Girl Who Cried Cultural Appropriation," it was tough not to notice the clear African theme of Valentino's spring 2016 show, which walked in Paris on Tuesday. Now, the clothing — which incorporated tribal motifs, detailed knitting and embroidery, safari prints, interesting texture in the form of feathers, beads and fringe, and studded leather that recalled armor — didn't do much more than show an appreciation for another culture and display the skilled craftsmanship of designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli.

The real problem was the hair. Kylie Jenner, Miley Cyrus and Cara Delevingne are among the celebrities that have been berated for wearing cornrows (thereby appropriating African culture) in recent memory, and yet the models at Valentino were all given a braided bun hairstyle designed by Guido Palau. As a traditional African style that's endured generations, this is problematic. Designers getting their inspiration from different cultures is certainly not a negative thing, but it's often the way it's presented that feels wrong. For instance, this collection featured 91 looks, but only 10 of them were worn by black models (and fewer then 10 were cast, as some of them walked twice).

And with that, the conversation around cultural appropriation in fashion continues, and it's been going particularly strong for spring 2016.  Did you think the hair at Valentino crossed the line into (offensive) cultural appropriation territory? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.