The Normalisation of Cultural Appropriation in Fashion

Following the controversy surrounding influencer Emma Chamberlain's necklace worn at this year's Met Gala, the conversation of cultural appropriation has reemerged...

Samantha Seidu
23rd June 2022
Image: Instagram @stitchedmuse

Cultural appropriation is a term we hear every so often, at least once a month if you look hard enough. Simply put, cultural appropriation is the act of taking an aspect of one’s culture and using it for personal gain without acknowledging what it is, where it comes from and what it represents. In the fashion and beauty space, cultural appropriation is everywhere, from runway shows, to makeup shoots, as well as celebrities who also partake in it. Though the intent is never to cause offence, the way people, especially public figures, use various cultural practices and items has become hugely problematic; this usually is only understood by those whose culture is being appropriated.

In the fashion and beauty space, cultural appropriation is everywhere, from runway shows, to makeup shoots, as well as celebrities who also partake in it

This years ‘Gilded Glamour’ Met Gala saw a variation of dazzling, artistic and classy outfits by all of our favourite celebrities. Of those, included Emma Chamberlain, a YouTuber and influencer who as of now, has amassed 4.8 million subscribers to her YouTube channel. One thing that stood out to spectators, however, was her choice of necklace that stirred a lot of controversy. It became known that the necklace Emma Chamberlain wore was that belonging to the Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh who turned his De Beers diamond into a family heirloom. This soon went missing, only to be found in a second hand jewellery shop in London several years later. Many people have argued that this necklace should be kept in a museum, or at least returned to one of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh’s relatives, instead of being showcased on the red carpet so trivially.

Image: Instagram @courtjeweller

The necklace Emma Chamberlain wore was that belonging to the Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh

With this, Emma Chamberlain was met with a lot of criticism for partaking in cultural appropriation. The necklace she wore has a lot of cultural significance in India, and the fact it went missing and was later found in London is a painful reminder of the British colonial ties that saw many Indian treasures stolen and bought here, some of which are still here to this day. Unfortunately, this is not the only act of cultural appropriation we see from celebrities: the appropriation of Henna tattoos, Bindis and Saris from Indian culture, box braids and cornrows from the African Diaspora, Kimonos from Japan, Qi Paos from China, this list could go on. These are all aspects of different cultures that have been readapted to become ‘trendy’ and ‘stylish’ when worn on the high street or on social media, but are met with ridicule when worn by those who practice the culture it originates from. More recently, the wearing of headscarves that look suspiciously similar to hijabs on TikTok, whilst Muslim women are being faced with Hijab bans as we speak.

The fact that the necklace went missing and was later found in London is a painful reminder of the British colonial ties that saw many Indian treasures stolen

What has become painfully obvious is how many influencers and celebrities pick and choose which aspects of different cultures they want to adopt in their style purely for aesthetic purposes without fully understanding the cultural significance of many of these items. Whilst to them, it will upgrade their style, or make an outfit look cuter, to people from other cultures, these items hold value, they tell a story of the past and are hugely important to their cultural identity. To see parts of your culture being commodified is very painful, especially when you are being tormented, ridiculed and deprived of opportunities because you are showcasing a part of your identity. This is why cultural appropriation is so offensive even if the intent to cause offence wasn’t there.

To people from other cultures, these items hold value, they tell a story of the past and are hugely important to their cultural identity

As the conversation of cultural appropriation appears, questions about where the line between ‘appropriation’ and ‘appreciation’ are asked. Generally speaking, ‘appreciation’ implies that you are using this cultural practice or item as a way to indulge in one’s culture, and ‘appropriation’ is using it for your personal gain without knowledge of its significance. For example, wearing a traditional Korean Hanbok for ceremonial purposes would be ‘appreciation’ because it indicates the will to learn and indulge more in the culture and its cultural practices. Wearing a Hanbok because it would make a cute addition to your outfit is ‘appropriation’ because it shows a lack of interest in learning about the culture but using the item as a means for your own gain.

Though there is a very fine line between the two, it is easy for boundaries to be crossed and cause a lot of offence. Whilst multiculturalism has allowed for us to observe and experience new cultures, it is important to remain respectful of them at all times, even if aspects of it don’t seem all that important to you.

(Visited 5 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ReLated Articles
magnifiercross
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap