In a recent interview with Vogue, Polanco spilled all the tea on how hard it is to be a woman in Hollywood with curves. Spoiler: It’s hard AF. And it isn’t just Polanco’s perception of things. Her close friends and coworkers have confirmed the sad fact that she’s not being dressed by big-name luxury brands because she’s curvy. She’s even been turned down from brands she admires and wears already.
“Oh, you’re not the sizes we have, not right now, maybe in the future,” Polanco told Vogue about a brand she already buys and wanted to wear to events. “Now even if they want me to [wear their designs] down the road, I will not give them the pleasure. It’s disappointing, but I try to work with up-and-coming designers who will make things for me and who will collaborate with me. People who love my curves and embrace them as much as I do.”
Like many major institutions, the Fashion Industry has been accused in the past of gatekeeping and breeding a lack of diversity in its designers, models, and photographers. This lack of variety in the stories told by the industry has resulted in more than a few controversies in the recent past for some of the biggest names in fashion.
Brands like Gucci, Prada, and H&M have all seen major backlash after featuring products that were more than a little racist. Back in December of 2018, it was Prada with their Golliwog-like figures displayed in the windows of their SoHo boutique. Then there was H&M and their online page featuring a young, black child wearing a shirt that had the word monkey on it. Less than a month later it was Gucci in February 2019, with their sweater that — when pulled up — had the dark features and red lips of a blackface character.
These controversies caused more than a little public outcry when they happened. Either because of these instances or because they realized it was way past time, all three of these company’s created some sort of position to encourage diversity and inclusion in their organizations.
Now, it seems that Chanel has done the same but their hire has a major difference than others in the industry.
Twitter / @BoF
Earlier this month, Fiona Pargeter — who previously held the same position at Swiss bank UBS — joined Chanel as their Head of Diversity and Inclusion. Though Pargeter obviously comes with previous experience, she also lacks something that seems important in an inclusion director. Namely, she isn’t a member of one of the marginalized communities Chanel hopes to further incorporate.
According to a post on VOGUE, the role was created as “a sign of Chanel’s commitment and its importance to the house.” In an interview with THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, a Chanel representative elaborated on this new position. The statement read:
“Fiona Pargeter just joined the company in the position of head of Diversity and Inclusion to evolve our existing diversity and inclusion approach. Diversity and Inclusion has been led for a couple of years in our People and Organization function by our people communication and engagement leader. Fiona has been hired to continue to create momentum for our efforts. This recruitment is a sign of our commitment to these topics and its importance to the house.”
While the position doesn’t necessarily require the director of diversity and inclusion to be a minority, this appointment does raise some valid questions.
Twitter / @Brigitte_Vezina
Was Pargeter the best person for the job based on her experience and skill and is that why she got the job or was it another example of failed diversification? Was her hiring a purposeful attempt to avoid tokenism and diversity hiring? Only the decision-makers at Chanel can speak towards that.
Can a white person honestly do a good enough job at reaching out to marginalized communities? Do they understand enough about the racism that Black and brown people face? Can they make a difference in the systems that oppress these communities? We aren’t sure but history has shown us that the only ones who create this kind of systematic change are people who have experienced the atrocities of said system themselves.
In response to Gucci’s controversy, streetwear designer Dapper Dan was tapped to lead a predominately black “Changemakers Council.” Additionally, the brand hired a Black Vice President of Brand and Culture Engagement, Antoine Phillips. Prada recruited director Ava DuVernay and artist Theaster Gates to co-chair the Diversity and Inclusion Council after their own backlash. Likewise, H&M made their own hires after their accusations of racism. Annie Wu was instated as Global Leader of Diversity & Inclusiveness for the company and Nigerian-American Ezinne Kwubiri was made the North American lead.
Can these Black people and people of color do a better job than Pargeter just because they understand the pain of racism? Possibly but we can’t say for sure.
Of course, Twitter had a lot to say about the Chanel hiring as well.
This Twitter user pointed out that Chanel’s response to too few Black people and POC in their company was to hire yet another white person. It almost reads like a bad joke when it’s put that way but it is exactly what the fashion company did in this situation.
There’s no telling how impactful this hire will prove for Chanel or other members of the industry but, in the meantime, we can vote with our dollars instead. Buy from Black and POC owned brands and know for sure that your money is going directly back into marginalized communities instead of systems that would further oppress them.
Fashion brand Louis Vuitton is under scrutiny from the Mexican government after allegedly using indigenous designs on the cover of a chair that’s being sold for over $18,000. The Mexican government called them out for cultural appropriation and for taking the designs from an indigenous community.
This comes only a couple weeks after the Mexican government called out fashion designer Carolina Herrera for appropriation as well.
According to the Daily Mail, “Culture Minister Alejandra Fausto sent a letter dated July 5 questioning Louis Vuitton’s use of a traditional Mexican pattern in the design of a chair that retails for $18,200.” Fausto states in the letter than the artistic pattern belong to the indigenous community of Tenango de Doria.
“Each piece is unique and unrepeatable,” Fausto writes in the letter. “And at the same time, it is a result of the continuity of the work of many generations who transmit knowledge, skills, and creativity.
On its website, however, Louis Vuitton writes, “LV partnered with award-winning designer duo Raw Edges, Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay, to create this Dolls limited-edition chair. Sculptural in design, this avant-garde piece marries a deep green base and seat with a contrasting tropical-print shell.”
Tropical print? Sounds suspect.
“The designers took their inspiration from traditional crafts from all over the globe and the House’s rich travel heritage,” the statement on their website goes on to say.
Days after receiving the letter from Fausto, El Universal reported that Louis Vuitton insists the brand was actually collaborating with Mexican artisans––despite that piece of information not being explicit on their website. The brand tells El Universal that they’re “currently in a relationship with artisans of Tenango de Doria in the state of Hidalgo, with the perspective of collaborating together to produce this collection.” They did not provide any further details.
Although Louis Vuitton hasn’t yet addressed the letter, they did remove the chair in question from the website. All the other products from the partnership with Raw Edges are still available for purchase.
The chair in question is still on the Raw Edges Instagram account. A quick scroll through the comments and one will find many users calling them out for stealing these designs from indigenous communities from Mexico.
Earlier in June, Mexico News Daily reported that Fausto reached out Carolina Herrera accusing the fashion designer of using designs of indigenous communities in three states.
Fausto accused Carolina Herrera of liberally copying several articles of clothing that were featured in Herrera’s 2020 collection–not giving credit where it was due.
“This pattern comes from the community of Tenango de Doria in Hidalgo. Contained in these patterns is the very history of the community, and each element has special personal, familial, and communal significance,” wrote Fausto in the letter sent to Herrera.
Reuters also reported that “Mexico’s ruling leftist National Regeneration Movement has been planning legislation to protect indigenous communities from plagiarism and having their work used by others without receiving fair compensation.”
According to a new report from the Centre for International Governance Innovation, “Traditional cultural expressions ‘are undeniably’ forms of intellectual property but are largely excluded from existing protections offered by the World Intellectual Property Organization.”
This is all part of a larger movement from organizations working toward tougher intellectual property laws in order to protect indigenous communities from cultural appropriation. During a time when fast fashion is so prevalent in the fashion industry and when high profile designers have the means to appropriate from other cultures without facing repercussions, it’s important to protect indigenous communities and artists from having their work stolen, repurposed, and sold for more money without seeing any of that profit.
According to Mexico News Daily, Susan Harp who heads the Culture Commission in Congress, said, “These communities are asking for respect, they’re not [necessarily] asking for money. They want designers to come to them and ask for their permission.”
The letter that Fausto sent to Louis Vuitton read, “We feel obliged to ask, in a respectful manner, if for the elaboration of the chair you mentioned you sought and, in this case, worked together with the community and its artists.”
This isn’t the first time that major designers, fashion designers, and clothing lines have been found copying and appropriating indigenous Mexican designs.
For example, Zara, Mango, Etoile, Michael Kors, and Isabel Marant have all been criticized for this in the past.
While high profile fashion designers have a history of appropriating and incorporating indigenous patterns and designs into their collections and products, it’s important and necessary that cultural institutions from other counties are calling these brands out in efforts to stop this from happening again.
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