When writing about Virgil Abloh’s appointment to creative director of Louis Vuitton menswear, fashion journalists avoid referencing black culture and black fashion with the heritage brand. They are not ready to relate to black style as a refined design aesthetic although the new generation of men have replaced brogues with sneakers, chinos with nylon track pants and down-feather vests with hoodies. This also applies to women’s wear as well. On the streets of Paris you can find multi-colored Ankara prints mixed with denim jeans, styled with large earrings and chunky boots. It’s been an everyday look in Harlem and Lagos for years but journalists tip-toe around crediting the elegant look to black fashion and instead they white wash the inspiration and origins and credit white designers.
But the topic of black fashion and its influence on high fashion is now trending in the fashion industry. The best example is the “ghetto until proven fashionable” t-shirt spotted during fashion week last month. The t-shirt kicked off a series of articles how black fashion & style loses its ghetto stigma when it is appropriated by white designers.
An article written by Wanna Thompson, a 20-something year old writer from Toronto, frames the topic of black girls from the hood as the fashion industry’s most appropriated muse.
From the projects to the runway, I’ve witnessed the endless looks that have been created and/or influenced by black women in the ghetto being stripped down and sold to the highest bidder in an effort to erase its origin. What was once billed as ratchet, has been widely appropriated by those who comfortably watch from the sidelines and regurgitated into some watered down, Instagram Baddie aesthetic.
Diet Prada, the no-mercy Instagram handle that exposes injustices in the fashion industry, recently called out buyers at Saks Fifth Avenue and Jeffrey New York for crediting Demna Gvasalia of Vetements for “putting street wear on the map”.
Diet Prada challenged the credit given to Demna saying,
“..to credit Vetements with putting streetwear on the map is a diss to the history of streetwear culture where clothes were made at accessible price points for more than just people outside of a fashion week circuit.”
I’m going to call this out for what it is, a form of white supremacy, a racist ideology based upon the belief that white people are superior to people of other races. In the case of fashion, the changing aesthetic is being documented to reflect a white person as it’s creator in an effort to maintain white superiority in history. How we document fashion today will teach the coming generations fallacies about where the inspiration came from and why it became popular. It unjustly steals credit from one group of people and gives it to another who do not deserve it.
I hope this conversation rages on. The fight to honestly document how and why fashion is evolving, who shaped it and how the originators added value to our culture is a worthy one and necessary to help our society achieve equality.