The Mixing and Appropriation of Culture in Fashion Design

tSince many years ago, it has been popular in the fashion and textile world to draw influence from many civilizations. However, there are certain cultural symbols that may not always be acceptable to utilize creatively, thus what some people may mistake for cultural appreciation may really be cultural appropriation.

Our current, globally interconnected society has made it incredibly difficult to distinguish between inspiration and copying. The “globetrotter” and “eclectic traveler” motifs often take aspects of cultures and commercialize them for our own aesthetic indulgence and enjoyment in everything from the runway to the high street, home interiors to accessories. Also, common textile sourcing made it more usual for the fashion industry.  

Due to this and the lack of diversity on the catwalk, there was a poor judgement instances of cultural appropriation  in the fashion industry for fashion design and clothes. This came as result in designers receiving negative press.


Our understanding of cultural allusion has undoubtedly changed. “John Galliano delivered a Christian Dior couture presentation that obliterated cultural borders in a spectacle of enormous theatricality. Sweeping, colorful volumes of cloth that blended East and West, the old, and the contemporary were shown with Chinese dancers and circus artists, who performed physical feats of death down the runway.

Would a comparable collection get publicity today?

Jessica Marant

An item from Isabel Marant’s spring/summer 2015 collection got mimic from an indigenous community’s traditional clothing.

The statement read: “Isabel Marant is committing a plagiarism since the Etoile spring/summer 2015 fashion design collection comprises the graphical features peculiar to the Tlahuitoltepec shirt, a design which has transcended boundaries and is not a fresh invention as is stated by the designer.”

Brandy Jacobs

Anger was raised when Karlie Kloss, Gigi and Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Irina Shayk, Adriana Lima, and Taylor Hill wore dreadlock extensions at Marc Jacobs’ Spring 2017 runway show. Jacobs first argued that he doesn’t see race or color in his response, but he subsequently expressed regret for being insensitive.


With his Chola Victorian AW 2015 collection, which was criticized for combing out artificial baby hairs on a runway cast that was composed of about 80% white models, Riccardo Tisci’s fascination with Latino stereotypes reached its pinnacle appropriation.

Vogue’s Secret

Victoria’s Secret get renew for its lavish runway presentations with theatrical performances and stunning models. It is also notorious for having more instances than most of dubious cultural appropriation and apologies.

Victoria’s Secret included a section called Wild Things in 2010. Men dressed in sarongs with patterns and wrap skirts got position around models wearing animal-print underwear, including Emanuela De Paulo. Black patterns put on models to replicate the body art of native Americans.

Each model dressed to symbolize a holiday or event from a different month of the year. It is during a segment of the 2012 fashion show. Karlie Kloss seemed to glamourize the horrifying slaughter indigenous people suffered at the hands of European colonists and American colonists as she walked the catwalk for November to commemorate Thanksgiving. After publicly apologizing for her role, Kloss had the look removed from the TV broadcast.

Evidently, VS didn’t take much from the criticism for their fashion design its earlier programmes received for cultural appropriation. Exotic Traveler was a section that appeared on the 2014 programme. Models wore leopard-print shoes, vividly coloured bustiers with tribal-inspired motifs, and feather wings.

Victoria’s Secret featured traditional Chinese-inspired patterns in their 2016 Road Ahead collection. VS received criticism for turning traditional attire into scant underwear designs and for failing to include models of Chinese ancestry. A complete feather dragon that looped around the model’s waist and back was maybe the most contentious of all.

The Nomadic Adventures 2017 presentation showcased outfits influenced by tribal and Native American attire. Perhaps they are failing to learn from their 2012 display.


When it came to modell’s sporting cornrows in their hair and the dearth of black representation in the show itself. Also, just eight out of the 87 looks in the show got present by black models, Valentino had allegations of cultural appropriation and ignorance.


A turban is traditionally worn by both men and women in Sikhism for fashion design as a sign of piety, reverence, and spirituality. Gucci received a lot of flak after sending white models wearing traditional Sikh turbans down the catwalk for its Autumn/Winter 2018 show.

Sum up

Sometimes, but not always, the distinction between appropriation and appreciation is clear. Context is crucial. Hopefully, designers will exhibit more empathy and understanding toward delicate subjects like culture as the fashion business becomes more open and varied.

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