If you've been on the Internet these last few days, you have likely heard that Kendall Jenner is the star of Mango's Spring 2016 campaign. While many of us have been excited to see her wispy bangs splashed in bohemian-inspired looks, the campaign has some controversy attached to it. Because of its "tribal spirit" theme, the images have been accused of cultural appropriation.
Let's take things back a step to study what could've gone wrong here. The campaign started innocently enough, as these things often seem to. According to Mashable, Mango announced its plans to feature four different models and themes throughout the season, starting things off with Kendall Jenner and a "Tribal Spirit" idea.
As we should know by this point, anything that involves the word "tribal" can invite something of a gray area for debates. The collection itself might seem to some more Coachella-inspired and grown-up cowboy influenced than anything else. However, the inspiration behind the line is what is causing those red flags. As Mashable reported, "Mango's collection is said to be inspired by the African savanna and will also include a tribal print dress." So if a whole collection is inspired by the African savanna, why is a white model representing that inspiration?
The fashion industry is notorious for under-representing minorities and favoring a certain beauty standard, and it's unfortunate that we have to once again see a white model represent African inspirations. Mango has yet to respond to Bustle's request for comment, but the brand's consumers are speaking out about the move on the Internet.
According to Mashable, "The announcement of a white model representing African heritage led to cultural appropriation outcries across social media." People went to Twitter to share their concern over the move, sharing an invisible eye roll over how inappropriate this creative decision actually was.
To those wondering what the big deal is, Jezebel's Dodai Stewart explained the dangers of cultural appropriation in a post about Miley Cyrus. "Miley and her ilk need to be reminded that the stuff they think is cool, the accoutrements they're borrowing, have been birthed in an environment where people are underprivileged, undereducated, oppressed, underrepresented, disenfranchised, systemically discriminated against, and struggling in a system set up to insure that they fail." Borrowing from that culture for inspiration and then failing to use or even account for someone from that culture is blatantly insensitive.
One would think that brands are well aware of the backlash they can get for culturally appropriating styles in their shows and campaigns, yet it keeps on happening. Here are three other times a designer or company received backlash for incentive or inappropriate casting.
1. Valentino's Africa-Themed Collection
Valentino's spring/summer 2016 collection had a fanciful, Africa-themed vibe with tulle and tribal jewelry... and an almost all-white runway. According to Metro, 91 percent of the show consisted of white models, with only eight out of the 87 models being women of color. When the whole collection was inspired by the diverse continent of Africa, those numbers seem just a little bit odd.
2. Junya Watanabe's African Accented Runway
Junya Watanabe pulled the same move as Valentino in its spring/summer 2016 Fashion Week show last year, marching down his group of all white models wearing his preppy line with dreadlocks and African shields and spears in tow.
3. Givenchy's "Chola Victorian" Inspo
When Riccardo Tisci was asked by Vogue what the inspiration behind his fall 2015 Givenchy line was, he declared "chola Victorian," hence the slicked-back 'dos and wet baby hairs plastered to foreheads. But if you're inspired by a certain type of woman or culture, and then fail to include that same woman in your show, then you're no longer paying tribute, but arguably taking part in cultural appropriation.
While it's frustrating that brands keep borrowing from cultures and being inspired by their aesthetics without actually wanting to use the people that come from said cultures, here's hoping to more sensitivity and awareness around the corner.
Images: MANGO (1)