For its fall 2016 ad campaign, Chanel went in a decidedly artsy direction, playing with collage, bold color and pop art — resulting in fun, unique images that left us wanting to take a pair of scissors to the pile of fashion magazines sitting in our office. Now, for spring 2017, the French house opted to create a cultural collage of sorts, and the photos, starring Arizona Muse and shot by Karl Lagerfeld, have us scratching our heads a bit.
According to a release from the brand, Lagerfeld "plays with contrasts as he captures the metamorphosis of a contemporary creature, one minute a pop Lolita, the next a cyber punk," in order to highlight the "explosive combinations from a collection that is feminine and yet ultra-modern." The spring runway show, clearly inspired by millennials and the digital generation, was set in a "Chanel Data Center" and referenced the early days of the World Wide Web — think tweeds that recalled multicolored wiring and neon, screensaver-esque prints. Two models in robot masks even opened the show. (One makes a surprisingly subtle appearance in the campaign.) However, there were a number of other prevalent themes, all of which pop up in these images: nostalgic accessories and silhouettes influenced by '80s and '90s hip hop, lingerie dressing and classic, ladylike eveningwear, to name a few.
The beauty choices in the campaign — a punky, Joan Jett-esque shag and drawn-on Marlene Dietrich brows — also stand out as a departure from Chanel's usually more prim, polished aesthetic. But more noteworthy than those edgy elements is the cringe-inducing cultural appropriation of Muse's look. Though the runway show managed to walk the line of celebrating — not exploiting — hip-hop culture when it came to the clothing, hair and makeup choices, the campaign crosses over into appropriative territory.
Muse, a white model, is depicted wearing both Bantu knots and corn rows, making for a dually problematic hairstyle. (If you're still not sure why the style qualifies as offensive, let us direct your attention to many, many, many, many, many, many thorough explanations the internet has already provided on the subject, as well as Amandla Stenberg's A+ video, "Don't Cash Crop On My Cornrows.") With this campaign, Chanel continues the fashion world's history of co-opting traditionally black hairstyles in a problematic way (see: Valentino, Marc Jacobs, multiple Kardashians). Sigh.
Click through the gallery below to see Chanel's spring 2017 campaign in full.