21 Times the Fashion Industry Appropriated Latino Culture
In simple terms, cultural appropriation is when someone improperly and/or thoughtlessly seizes another person’s viewpoints, manners, styles, or practices or anything that associated with that person’s culture. Typically, people appropriate culture from minorities.
Rock and roll’s early history is a good example of cultural appropriation. African Americans actually developed the music, but record companies and radio stations only paid attention to Caucasian artist’s recordings. Consequently, the public believed they originated and owned the music.
For years, the fashion industry has appropriated various cultures. For example, Marc Jacobs styled his Caucasian models in dreadlocks and Victoria Secret’s donned its models in Native American headdresses. It does the same to the Latino culture. Unfortunately, much like the rock and roll example, most of the public doesn’t realize when it’s happening.
Here are twenty-one times various individuals or entities from the fashion industry appropriated from the Latino culture.
Ms. Stefani is a clothes designer and fashion icon. Oftentimes, she wears the “chola” look, which the Urban Dictionary defines as consisting of thin, “angry looking” eyebrows; dark lip liner; flannel shirts; tattoos; facial piercings; lots of gold jewelry; Nikes or Converse sneakers; baggy pants, and, hair gelled down, straight back or in a high pony tail. Ms. Stefani attended high school in Anaheim, California with many Latinos and says that he classmates’ makeup and clothing choices “mesmerized” her.
Kendall and Kylie Jenner
Kendall and Kylie Jenner are also clothes designers and fashion icons. In 2017, they posed in chola outfits and makeup. They initially told critics to “get over it, ” but later apologized. (Note: this wasn’t the first time people accused the Jenner’s of cultural appropriation)
In Givenchy’s fall 2015 show, creative director Riccardo Tisci gelled the fine hairs on the models hairlines (a style both Latino and African American woman wear and call “baby hairs.”), put jewels on their faces, and dressed them in Victorian clothes. He then called them his “Chola Victorian” girls. Furthermore, he did not acknowledge the Latino community and did not use models of color.
In January 2017, the Pretty Liars actress posted on social media a head shot in which she wears “baby hairs.” She even commented that the style came to good use at a photo shoot. Followers noted that her hair didn’t properly reflect the style and she then deleted the post. Fashion Magazine also pointed out that when African American and Latino women sport the style, it’s labeled “hood” and “ghetto,” but when Caucasian women wear it, it’s trendy.
the popular singer appeared on the cover of the September 2018 issue of British Vogue sporting extremely thin eyebrows. Such insulted Krysty Chavez, social media editor at Marie Claire, who wondered why Rihanna was wearing what’s normally known as chola brows. She actually wrote “WTF” and recalled how mothers of Mexican and Mexican-American girls feared they would wear such eyebrows.
Rihanna and Karreuche Tran
The singer appears on the list again, along with her actress/model friend. On Halloween 2017, the ladies wore opened flannel shirts, bright red lipstick, and baggy pants. They then posted photos of themselves on social media. Rihanna even painted a bullet hole on her chest. The costumes only perpetuated negative, gang-like stereotypes.
Twitter followers chastised the Vampire Diaries star when she dressed up in “Day of the Dead” makeup and attire. The Mexican holiday celebrates loved ones who have passed. Critics didn’t appreciate how Ms. Dobrev overlooked the holiday’s sacredness.
Lana Del Rey
In the short film Tropico, Ms. Del Rey portrays a Latino-American gangster. Objectors noted how the entertainment industry routinely casts Caucasian actors in Latino roles and believes it makes them look Latino by donning them in stereotypical clothes.
The company sells numerous ethnic inspired merchandises. The tagline for its Aztec purse reads: “They invented chewing gum and chocolate, but surely the Aztecs’ greatest achievement was inspiring these fresh prints.” The Aztec people were remarkable engineers and designers. In addition to creating a stunning city that had canals, causeways, and aqueducts, they made gorgeous jewelry, developed a hieroglyphic script, put together an intricate calendar, and built temples and pyramids. To say that they only invented snacks and that their utmost success inspired a handbag, demeans and insults them.
The designers for this fashion brand claimed that the “real” L.A. girl spurred their 2014 spring/summer line, which consisted of fringed leather skirts, bra tops, large belts, backward caps, and animal prints. The Guardian remarked that it expected the models to come onto the runway to Ricky Martin’s La Vida Loca.
This non-profit, donor funded company forms partnerships with Guatemalan artisan women and helps them market their woven textiles to well-known American retailers and also sells its own work. Such allows the women to preserve their craft, support their families, and earn money, which then helps them stay out of poverty.
This company markets fashions created by artists working under fair trade agreements. Argentinian designer, Carolina Kleinman (Carolina K), infuses Latino culture into her designs. One of her pieces, the Cholita Skirt, has bright embroidered flowers and is shaped like a dance skirt. Indigenous people inspire Ms. Kleinman, who strives to preserve their artistry.
Isabel Marant Etoile
The French designer marketed a blouse with embroidered features that the Muxe community in Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec claims it copied from their submissions. The designer acknowledged that the Tlahuitoltepec community provided the designs and a French court ruled that it didn’t own the rights. It then pulled the blouse from the market.
The footwear company designed and marketed a shoe called the “Guate Weave Authentic,” which it manufactured with South American style fabric. The style also reflected the kind skateboarders wore (the Latino Community helped shape the skateboarding industry and its fashions). Even those who sold the shoes felt the company was culturally appropriating Latino style.
The prominent retailer once offered a Mochila Bag (Mochila means bag) that sold well. Women of the Colombian Wayuu tribe use dyed cotton to hand weave Mochila Bags. Yet, the company gives the women little credit and hardly any profit.
The Mochila Project
The project recognizes that the Mochila bags are vital to the Wayuu people’s lifestyle and economy. Mothers also pass down the weaving skills to their daughters, so it additionally represents tradition.
Jennifer Lawrence/Christian Dior
Escaramuza charra, Mexico’s rodeo-like sport, inspired Dior’s most recent designs. Critics, however, wondered why it used Ms. Lawrence, instead of a Latino woman, to model the collection.
Two sisters in Utah established this company after a trip to Mexico. They loved the textiles and the people. They were eager to establish a working relationship that benefitted all of them. They women note on their website that they admire the Latino culture and people and want to raise funds to help support them. Users of social media nonetheless criticized their use of Caucasian models and accused them of cultural appropriation, which the sisters feel is unfair and wrong.
TOMS: in 2015, this shoe company offered a line of sandals inspired by ancient indigenous Mexican tribes. Centuries ago, such tribes designed and handmade sandals known as huaraches. While the company previously marketed its alpargatas (a classic Argentinian jute shoe) with a “buy one, give one” offer that that provided an impoverished child with a pair of shoes each time a consumer purchased one for themselves. Mexicans, nonetheless objected to the update of the traditional design and viewed it as cultural appropriation. TOMS ad didn’t help matters. It read: “Huraches are no longer Mexican.”
many Latino girls maintain that hoop earrings, especially oversized ones, represent defiance, grit, and character and do not like when Caucasian girls wear them. In 2017, three Pitzer College students painted a mural on which they wrote “White Girl, Take Off Your Hoops, Stop Calling Yourself Mami and Start Respecting Our Existence”. The girls wanted to bring attention to a double standard. Historically, when Latino women and other women of color wear hoop earrings and other Latino-associated fashions, others see them as ghetto and don’t take them seriously. Yet, when Caucasian women don the fashions, others call them fashion forward and consider them innovative.
If you study these examples, you’ll note a steady pattern. Most of the time (emphasis on “most of the time”), people unknowingly appropriate Latino Culture. They have no desire to hurt anyone and, most of the time (once again, emphasis on “most of the time”), wish to support it.
Reconsider the rock and roll example. Many critics accused Elvis Presley, the “King” of rock and roll, of culturally appropriating African American music. Many African Americans, though, insisted that he genuinely supported them and claimed his popular recordings provided opportunities they would not have had otherwise.
Today, however, technology and social media provide tremendous access to knowledge. Anyone, should they wish, can learn all they want about an individual’s culture and customs, talk directly to those within the culture, and learn about cultural appropriation error (this is Cultural Appreciation). Offenders can’t legitimately claim complete oblivion. So, good intentions, oversights, and good wishes only go so far. Repeated offenses, overtly ignorant statements, and repeated offenses simply can’t be excused.
In all the examples, Latinos weren’t really against others wearing their fashions. They simply didn’t like others overlooking their heritage, disregarding their traditions, and refusing to acknowledge their ancestry and contributions. They also objected to the double standard, which repeatedly proved, that when the dominate class, Caucasians, mostly, wore their fashions, critics called them pioneering and fresh, yet when they wore the same items, the same people viewed them negatively.
There may be occasions where you disagree with a Latino individual’s claim of cultural appropriation. You may want to say that they’re overreacting or behaving too sensitively. But, when you take time to appreciate from where their pain comes, their history, and investigate these examples, you’ll understand. Perhaps you’ll even inspire change.
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