'Sophisticated' dreads on white models spark fashion show uproar

Demi Lovato, Tracee Ellis Ross and Leona Lewis sat front row as Marc Jacobs closed New York Fashion Week. The runway was packed with It Girls, including Kendall Jenner, Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid and Adriana Lima. (Sept. 15) AP

NEW YORK - Once again, Marc Jacobs’ Fashion Week presentation has left fashion cognoscenti talking — but not because of the way runway models wore his clothes. Rather, Jacobs’ collection came under fire on social media because of the way his models wore their hair.

As part of Thursday’s show, the enigmatic designer sent a cast of predominantly white models down the catwalk with multicolored wool dreadlocks spilling from their crowns.

The... interesting styling choice evoked memories of Jacobs' spring 2015 show where models sported Bantu knots, with hairstylist and Redken global creative director Guido Palau telling the Huffington Post the look was inspired by singer-songwriter Björk (never mind that black people have been rocking Bantu knots as a protective style for centuries).

As for this year's look, Palau told Harper's Bazaar that the aesthetic was inspired by trans director and spring/summer 2016 campaign star Lana Wachowski as well as "certain types of cultures, like rave culture, club culture, acid house, Boy George and Marilyn."
 
While it is true that dreadlocks have been linked to other cultures, the style is a mainstay in black culture, a manageable means of protecting strands, a symbol of black pride in a society that stigmatizes textured hair while privileging straight hair.
 
 
And yet as ubiquitous as locs are in black culture, the style was presented on an overwhelmingly white lineup with Palau omitting black culture as one of the inspirations. Though he did seem to allude it, telling the magazine: "The interesting thing about Marc is how he takes something so street and so raw, and because of the coloration of the hair and the makeup, it becomes a total look. Something that we've bypassed on the street and not really looked at, or seen a million times, he makes us look at it again in a much more sophisticated and fashionable way."
 
And herein lies the issue: Black culture isn't deemed "sophisticated" or "fashionable" until it is co-opted by white tastemakers. It is one thing to engage in cultural exchange — fashion has made a practice of this, piecing together elements of different cultures to produce transcendent mosaics — but it's another to seemingly bypass aspects of one culture and then act as if whitewashing them somehow elevates them.
 
Note to designers and stylists everywhere: It doesn't.

 


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment