New York Fashion week has been notorious for raising controversy every season. This year’s award-winner for worst offender goes to Marc Jacobs for his culturally insensitive appropriation of dreadlocks. Jacob’s 52-look collection was the closing show of New York Fashion Week, a hot ticket for all fashionistas. His models wore candy-colored dreadlocks made from wool made possible by renowned hair stylist Guido Palau. Both Jacobs and Palau claimed that neither Rastafarian culture nor hair served as inspiration for the show. Rather, they argued that the show was inspired by raver culture, Boy George and Harajuku. Regardless of these claims, the show incited much anger and backlash from the public. After an onslaught of impassioned criticism from social media, Jacobs thoughtlessly commented on his Instagram with the following:
“And all who cry ‘cultural appropriation’ or whatever nonsense about any race of skin color wearing their hair in a particular style or manner—funny how you don’t criticize women of color for straightening their hair…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…”
In so doing, Jacobs fueled even more anger and backlash from the public. It is absolutely false to claim that society does not criticize women of color for straightening their hair. It happens all the time. What a lousy invocation of reverse racism! And of course he doesn’t “see color or race,” as it is a core tenet of white culture to appropriate the culture and styles of people of color as a way to stand out within an already white-washed landscape.
Jacobs’s most recent statement about his racist remarks was in the form of another Instagram post with the caption:
“I apologize for the lack of sensitivity unintentionally expressed by my brevity. I wholeheartedly believe in freedom of speech and freedom to express oneself though art, clothes, words, hair, music…EVERYTHING. Of course I do ‘see’ color but I DO NOT discriminate. THAT IS A FACT!”
Nice try covering up your racist sentiments, Jacobs, but we have the tabs and receipts. There is nothing wrong with pushing limits or trying to be different. However, when you are a designer creating clothing that is seen on the world’s stage, it is important to take into consideration the implications of creative direction that is bound to offend.
A runner-up for contributing nothing positive to fashion goes to Kanye West for his uninspired reruns in Yeezy Season 4. When Chanel ushered jersey fabric into high fashion, it was revolutionary. Kanye’s t-shirts are just tired. The show featured looks that blended inspirations from Jedi masters’ robes, “Duck Dynasty” hillbilly chic and basic white girl yogawear. His collection was a mere repeat of the last three seasons of Yeezy, another bland iteration of athleisure, trite thigh-high boots and black spandex. There is nothing special about the clothing he brands.
Though West claims that the clothing he designs is not aimed for fashion, but rather aimed at dressing the masses, there is something highly flawed in his business model. It is absolutely impractical to believe that the masses will buy parkas that cost over $1,000 when there are far more reasonably priced selections elsewhere. West commodifies clothing by taking a pair of sweatpants, using his celebrity status to brand it and hyping up the masses into thinking that they need his clothes. Wake up consumers! You can buy similar styles in department stores, Target or better yet, a thrift shop. The unsatisfactory nature of Yeezy raises the question of what standards we must hold celebrities accountable to when they use the cult of fame to rob the masses.
On a better note, DKNY’s collection, presented on the High Line, was a tour de force that demonstrated the genius of the recently appointed duo of creative directors Maxwell Osbourne and Dao-Yi Chao. The clothes and overall collection spoke to the endless possibilities in store for the brand’s future. At the same time, it quoted DKNY signatures such as “pinstripe tailoring, activewear elements, modular separates and streetwise attitude,” according to Vogue’s Maya Singer.
The designers crafted looks that borrowed traditional menswear elements and deconstructed them to include more feminine silhouettes. Oversized jackets were also sprinkled throughout the collection—a progressive reworking of the concept of making a statement through layering. Finally, the designers surprised with their use of sheer fabrics in pants, dresses and jackets. It was an interesting take on bringing softness into traditionally tough, utilitarian pieces. DKNY’s impeccable balance between brand DNA and fresh sartorial vision keeps people, like myself, wanting more.
Brandon Maxwell was another designer that wowed. After starting his brand less than a year ago, Maxwell delivered understated yet impactful clothing that was nothing short of glamorous. The collection featured only four colors: pale pink, olive green, black and white. Every single look was monochromatic but never boring (unlike the Yeezy collection). Maxwell proved his precise tailoring skills through the variety of silhouettes he created. Every single piece of the collection, 38 looks in total, was completely different! He utilized a variety of pieces: pant suits, crop tops, skirts, mini dresses, formal gowns and more.
Maxwell, through this collection, proved that designers can take classical clothing types yet elevate them by imbuing tradition with an indescribable essence of the future. Truly, the clothing spoke for itself and for Maxwell’s unstoppable rise to stardom as a designer, well-deserving of the attention of the masses for his undeniable talent and vision.
New York Fashion Week would not be the same without a little drama to stir the pot. Thankfully, highlights such as DKNY’s collection can continue to illustrate the positive attributes of creative expression.