We Love Stella McCartney's Ethical Initiatives But The Cultural Appropriation Will Not Be Tolerated
Stella McCartney is a luxury fashion powerhouse who has embraced a conscious mindset early on in her career. We applaud her company for continuously coming up with innovative ways to be ethical. She is most known for being an anti-leather advocate and working with PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals). Additionally, many of her collections are made with organic cotton. Even McCartney's stores, offices and studios in the UK are powered by wind energy. Not to mention, she's always getting involved with green projects like the Natural Resource Defense Council -NRDC Clean by Design Program and Red Carpet Green Dress. And this we love about her!
BUT it's not okay for us to give luxe ethical designers a pass when they culturally appropriate! How you interact with cultures, give back to cultures and represent cultures - says a lot about how far your sustainability efforts really go.
Stella McCartney's Summer/Spring 2018 collection debuted in Paris Fashion Week on October 2nd and it was stunning.
But if seeing these looks didn't strike a chord ...
... then there's much to be said!
Anyone who knows the very basics of African fashion (or fashion in general) knows that these are Ankara prints. These are adopted African prints (with a complex origin), usually a colorful cloth that is distinctly recognized for it's tribal-like patterns and motifs. These are staple looks across the West Africa and most notably in Nigeria and Ghana.
"Fashion in Ghana roots itself in the authenticity of artisan-made products". African moms, aunts, daughters and grandmothers make these garments daily and are worn by these women all year round - it's an intrinsic part of their culture. So when rich white powerhouse fashion designers blatantly rip off indigenous communities, it's a modern form of exploitation which disempowers groups who are already marginalized. Although there is a fine line between appreciation and appropriation, designer Tereneh Mosely of Idia’Dega says it the best: “The problem is when people don’t give creative credit and economic benefit to cultures who created it.”
Photos by Dominique Drakeford while traveling in Ghana
Sometimes, the most challenging part of witnessing cultural appropriation is when women of color are not at all represented in the designers presentation. Stella McCartney made an OK attempt to include diversity in her runway presentation - but there were no models of darker hue ... and only one AFRICAN model to represent your appropriated collection!
We are going to continue to talk about the relevancy of CULTURAL SUSTAINABILITY because not enough ethical brands are talking about it! It's still a very white washed community that doesn't see the devastation of appropriation and lack of inclusion from the lens of women of color.
Check out some tweets by people who are disgusted and hurt by Stella's most recent collection: