The ongoing conversation around cultural appropriation in fashion (and beauty) just got a new talking point. Japanese designer Junya Watanabe showed his men’s collection in Paris today, at the Museum of Immigration. The collection drew on African influences — including colorful Dutch wax fabrics and Masai-style layered necklaces — while managing to feature exactly zero black models. Much noted on social media was the hair — several white models appeared to wear dreadlock wigs. (Watanabe has done this before, as seen in his spring 2014 women’s collection.)
NowFashion said, “Much like Vampire Weekend’s ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,’ Watanabe’s collection reflected on colonialism, and exploited the in-roads between preppy and native African culture,” while WWD conceded, “Some might see the Masai necklaces, wooden masks and metal spears as overkill, and insensitive to the darker side of colonialism. Yet the beauty of Watanabe’s pattern mixes and the placement of the scraps — along with the jauntiness of his summer tailoring in rumpled, sun-faded fabrics — delivered a powerful tropical punch.” Here’s what people on Twitter said:
We’ve reached out to one of the designer’s representatives for a comment, and will update this post when we hear back.