Here we are again. Another fashion week, another questionable, culturally appropriative look. This time it came courtesy of New York Fashion Week's last show, Marc Jacobs. For the designer's spring 2017 collection, models walked the runway wearing pastel, multicolored dreadlocks. There has been controversy in the past over white people wearing dreadlocks — and quite a few think pieces on the phenomenon — so really, there's little we can add to this conversation that would be new or different, or that the internet and social media commenters haven't already begun to point out.
Watching the look come together backstage (honestly, the pastel, watercolor-like makeup by François Nars was beautiful to behold) made one fact all too clear. The designer, hairstylist Guido Palau and his team drew on a whole host of references and inspirations when conceptualizing the beauty look. Here, a list of some of the inspirations we heard the creative team call out backstage:
- Boy George
- Marilyn Manson
- The '80s
- Club kids
- Burning Man
- Acid house music
- Marc Jacobs himself
- London in the '80s
- Harajuku girls
- Lana Wachowski, the director of "The Matrix" and "Cloud Atlas" and a face of the spring 2016 Marc Jacobs campaign
The noteworthy exceptions, however? The obvious ones: Rastafarianism and black culture, wherein dreadlocks have their historical roots. It's worth also noting that the wool hair pieces the team used were created by a (white) woman from Florida named Jena, who Jacobs and Palau found on Esty by doing a Google search. When asked how she'd first gotten into the field of handmade faux dreadlocks, she said "I saw them on the Internet and thought they were pretty."
The Cut asked Palau whether he'd given consideration to the politics of the look, to which he responded:
"I don't really think about that. I take inspiration from every culture. Style comes from clashing things. It's always been there — if you're creative, if you make food, music, and fashion, whatever, you're inspired by everything. It’s not homogeneous. Different cultures mix all the time. You see it on the street. People don't dress head-to-toe in just one way."
UPDATE, Sept. 16: Marc Jacobs posted a response from his personal Instagram account on a photo of models on the runway the label's handle had posted. His response used the common (and invariably problematic) argument that he "doesn't see color," serving to stoke the fires of controversy rather than quell them, if the subsequent comments on the post are any indication. His full comment read:
"To all who cry 'cultural appropriation' or whatever nonsense about any race or skin color wearing their hair in any particular style or manner- funny how you don't criticize women of color for straightening their hair. I respect and am inspired by people and how they look. I don't see color or race- I see people. I'm sorry to read that so many people are so narrow minded... Love is the answer. Appreciation of all and inspiration from anywhere is a beautiful thing. Think about it"
UPDATE, Sept. 19: Jacobs has again responded via Instagram to the many commenters who have taken issue with the look he sent down the runway. On Sunday, he posted the following message, championing free speech and open dialogue, to his personal account: