Ask two thoughtful ques related to art history,you have to talk about the video in relations to the article a little bit and be sure to include a specific quote; but you dont need to answer the ques you created. Watch: Fast forward to minute 1:17, McQueen, Alexander. Horn of Plenty, 2009 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.Fast forward to minute 14:32,McQueen, Alexaner. The Overlook, 1999 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.Article is attached: Green, Denise Nicole, and Susan B. Kaiser. “Fashion and Appropriation.” Fashion, Style, & Popular Culture 4, no. 2 (2017): 145-150.
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FSPC 4 (2) pp. 145–150 Intellect Limited 2017
Fashion, Style & Popular Culture
Volume 4 Number 2
© 2017 Intellect Ltd Introduction. English language. doi: 10.1386/fspc.4.2.145_2
DENISE NICOLE GREEN
SUSAN B. KAISER
University of California, Davis
Fashion and Appropriation
The great irony of a special issue about ‘Fashion and Appropriation’ is that
the topic is simultaneously passé and ever-relevant. Both producers and
consumers of fashion have long expressed a fascination with difference, the
‘exotic’, ambiguity, and uncertainty through style-fashion-dress (Tulloch
2010; Kaiser 2012). In addition to fuelling fashion change, these inclinations
have also encouraged various forms of appropriation, making this topic an
ongoing, yet deeply historical, debate. Appropriation is a complex political and ethical discussion with many nuances and layers that require careful and critical unpacking; the articles in this special issue approach this
complexity from different angles and perspectives. We hope that each of
these papers will encourage readers to think about appropriation in new
ways, engage with its various definitions and articulations, and consider
the impact appropriation has on communities, identities, economies, and
In 2017 appropriation is on our minds, entangled with current debates
across various media channels. While appropriation has been a cog in the
fashion machine as long as people have engaged in trade and communicated
cross-culturally, it has recently become foregrounded in pop culture and mass
media. Consciousness and criticism of appropriation have proliferated throughout the blogosphere, social media, and other online and print outlets over the
last decade. Awareness of appropriation appears to have culminated in 2016,
Denise Nicole Green | Susan B. Kaiser
with entertainment writer for The Huffington Post Carly Ledbetter calling 2016
‘the year of celebrities apologizing for cultural appropriation’ (Ledbetter 2016).
One might argue that fashion designers and celebrities have employed
this public consciousness to draw attention – both positive and negative – to
themselves and the products they hope to sell. As circus showman Phineas T.
Barnum is credited as saying, ‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity’. While
bloggers increasingly criticize fashion designers and celebrities for cultural
appropriation, the discourse simultaneously draws attention to individuals
It appears that most discussions about appropriation in fashion and
appearance are taking place in popular media rather than academic presses
or peer-reviewed journals. Scholars like Minh-ha T. Pham and Mimi Thuyen
have made major scholarly arguments in the blogosphere and, in so doing,
have reached millions of readers. Some of these same scholars have cautioned
against the debate because it reifies and perpetuates the very things it argues
against. In an article in The Atlantic, Minh-ha T. Pham argues that the cultural
appropriation versus cultural appreciation debate is ‘pointless’:
[It] quickly becomes a performance, in which neither side misses a cue
nor forgets a well-learned line. This continues for several days and
maybe weeks until it peters out or until the next racist fashion event
crops up – whichever comes first. The debate around the event often
gets more press and social-media attention than the event did itself, and
nobody seems to change opinions for the next go-round.
(2014, par. 6)
Yet even worse, as Pham points out, criticism of cultural appropriation easily
slips into a reaffirmation of a unidirectional ‘white Western domination over
and exploitation of culture at the expense of everyone else’ (2014, par. 8). The
debate reduces itself to unproductive binaries – for example, the ‘Western
capitalist institution’ versus the ‘slum’, ‘high culture’ versus ‘low culture’ –
and these categories ‘preserve the hierarchical relations between the fashion
industry and the cultures being appropriated’ (2014, par. 18). If we step back
and begin to re-think and re-theorize appropriation, might we produce more
thoughtful and politically engaged understandings?
At a foundational level, appropriation begins with imitation – that is,
imitation of another time, place, people or subject position. One of the earliest sociologists to grapple with the phenomenon of fashion change was
Georg Simmel, who argued that dual processes of imitation and differentiation promulgate changes in clothing styles ( 1957). While his theory
has been widely criticized for focusing exclusively on class relationships, it
does illustrate part of an understanding as to why people have a dialectical
desire to be both like and different from some place, some time, and/or some
people(s). Not unlike some of the cultural appropriation arguments today,
Simmel reified a ‘top’ versus ‘bottom’ binary. He wrote,
Just as soon as the lower classes begin to copy their style, thereby crossing the line of demarcation the upper classes have drawn and destroying the uniformity of their coherence, the upper classes turn away from
this style and adopt a new one, which in its turn differentiates them
from the masses.
( 1957: 545)
146 Fashion, Style & Popular Culture
Fashion and Appropriation
If imitation is a starting point of appropriation, how then does imitation transform into appropriation? The articles in this special issue each take on a part
of this debate, and interestingly many explore different forms of appropriation, rather than focusing exclusively on cultural appropriation. In this way,
the articles in our special issue open up the possibility to move beyond the
‘pointless’ debate Minh-ha Pham criticizes and to think about appropriation
in more open-ended terms.
Jennifer Ayres interrogates the line between ‘appropriation’ and ‘inspiration’ as well as ‘theft’ and ‘borrowing’ with regard to the design process (the
theft of ideas) and the exploitation of low- or un-paid employees in the fashion industry (i.e., the theft of labour). She argues that while the fashion industry is known for its creativity and ‘polices copyright infringements around
the world – [it] routinely engages in practices of forgery that weaken both its
claims to authorship and the lucrative status of designer-as-artistic-genius’.
Dabrina Taylor and John Jacob turn some of these ideas on their head by
focusing on Coco Chanel, the bricoleur, who actually encouraged photographers and designers to ‘Come to my place and steal all the ideas you can’.
Both articles acknowledge that workers in the fashion industry routinely
steal ideas, yet come to different conclusions about the impact of theft: Ayres
highlights the ‘perennial tension between market demand and commercial
success, versus the integrity of art and original design’, while Taylor and Jacob
theorize Chanel’s advocacy of copying as part of the design process and a
vehicle for appropriating diverse gender and class positions into mainstream
Throughout our special issue authors theorize different forms of appropriation and rethink related terms: for example, exchange, inspiration, borrowing,
copying, and theft. Defining appropriation becomes even more complex when
brought into conversation with the legal regulation of designed consumer
products. For example, the United States Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990
(IACA) protects against misrepresentation of goods as Native-American-made
if they are not; however, the act problematically only protects US federally
recognized tribes and members and does not protect non-federally recognized Native American tribes, Canadian First Nations and other indigenous
groups across the globe. This creates a legal loophole for designer brands; for
example, Ralph Lauren copied, manufactured, and sold a ‘Cowichan Full-Zip
Cardigan’ in February 2015 (Zerbo 2015). Cowichan Tribes could not use the
IACA to legally challenge Ralph Lauren because they are a Canadian First
Nation. The advantage of the law is that US federally recognized tribes may
seek legal recourse, like Navajo Nation v. Urban Outfitters, which ended in a
confidential settlement in November 2016 after Urban Outfitters used ‘Navajo’
to describe a range of merchandise from underwear to fabric covered flasks.
Legal battles are costly and time consuming, and it is important to remember
that the IACA is a truth-in-advertising law; therefore, it cannot protect against
everyday appropriations or (mis)representations of Native American culture,
such as Victoria’s Secret model Karlie Kloss wearing a Great Plains style headdress on the runway in November 2012.
United States trademark laws and the IACA provide some protection for
designers and artists, but ultimately fashion designs cannot be copyrighted.
This creates a kind of free-for-all for ‘design inspiration’ and ‘borrowing’.
Contributor Jennifer Ayres defines appropriation as ‘an umbrella term that
encapsulates different degrees of borrowing, ranging from inspiration to
theft’, thus highlighting the contradictory nature of a term like ‘borrowing’,
Denise Nicole Green | Susan B. Kaiser
when ‘returning’ or ‘giving back’ (or even citation/recognition) is never
intended. Critiquing ‘inspiration’ and ‘borrowing’ from the past, Ayres
encourages readers to question, ‘what degree of borrowing is ethical in order
to claim original design[?]’ We are faced with these questions every day,
most recently at the United States 45th presidential inauguration when Ralph
Lauren, yet again, pushed the boundaries of borrowing: this time, a powder
blue dress and jacket and long gloves worn by First Lady Melania Trump at
the inauguration of her husband on 20 January 2017. As noted by the media,
the colour is reminiscent of the powder blue outfit and long gloves worn by
Jacqueline Kennedy at the inauguration of her husband in 1961. Even more
striking, however, is the similarity of the dress and cut of the jacket to a
pale pink Oleg Cassini dress and jacket worn by Jacqueline Kennedy at an
American Heart Association event in 1961. Imagine the Cassini dress and
jacket in powder blue, with matching long gloves, and a doubled, integrated
kind of appropriation comes to light. In fashion-cultural studies terms, there
is an articulation at play: a this-and-that convergence that creates a ‘new’
design (Kaiser 2012), although in this instance both ‘this’ (the colour powder
blue) and ‘that’ (the cut of the dress and jacket with a dramatic, asymmetrical collar) are each individually appropriated from designs worn by the First
Lady 56 years ago.
Circuits of appropriation and (re)appropriation are entangled with
time, differential power relations, political economies, aesthetics, and identities, highlighted in this issue with Tara Tierney’s focus on 1990s British
Acid House, Harriette Richards’s consideration of Rastafari in Aotearoa
New Zealand, and Danielle Bruggeman’s exploration of hybridity and
(re)appropriation of Dutch wax prints. Tierney focuses on the appropriation of US American 1960s ‘hippy’ aesthetics in the 1990s British Acid
House scene as a ‘sartorial remembering’ that defined an emerging cultural
aesthetic. Bruggeman’s research on the Dutch wax textile company Vlisco
includes aesthetic appropriations from different times, places and peoples to
produce ‘Dutchness’, both performatively and discursively. She develops the
idea of cultural (re)appropriation, ‘the process of reclaiming or “taking back”
these cultural objects’, in order to explore ‘the multiple processes of cultural
(re)appropriation inherent to Vlisco’s wax prints, such as appropriating the
Javanese batik technique; the integration of “Dutch wax” into West African
culture; and the most recent form of reclaiming these fabrics as Dutch’. Lastly,
Richards considers how ‘aesthetic elements of culture play into the processes
of appropriation’ amongst Rastafari in Aotearoa New Zealand. She argues that
processes of appropriating a ‘culture of resistance’, like Rastafari, ‘enhance the
strength of the culture, altering the power relations involved by further disseminating the messages of the culture and increasing cultural solidarity’.
We anticipate that the articles in this special issue will complicate expectations of, and ideas about, appropriation and its sister concepts. What is the
difference, for example, between appropriation and inspiration? imitation?
theft? How can power relations remain central to understandings of cultural
appropriation, without lapsing into a binary opposition between cultural
appropriation and cultural authenticity? Who profits from appropriation, and
who gets hurt or exploited: culturally, economically, politically, psychologically, and so on? And, can we imagine ways in which fashion’s appropriations
might become cited or referenced in popular discourse, so as to give credit – at
the very least – to sources of ‘inspiration’?
148 Fashion, Style & Popular Culture
Fashion and Appropriation
We would like to thank all of our contributing authors, the anonymous
reviewers, and Fashion, Style and Popular Culture editor, Joseph Hancock.
We would also like to acknowledge fashion history scholar Randy Brian
Bigham for drawing our attention to the similarities between Jacqueline
Kennedy’s Cassini dress and Melania Trump’s inaugural dress suit by Ralph
Lauren. Special thanks to Kelsie Doty, Amanda Denham, Leah Shenandoah
and Samantha Stern for their thoughtful comments and reflections on this
Friedman, Vanessa (2017), ‘Melania Trump, wearing Ralph Lauren, channels
a predecessor – Jacqueline Kennedy’, New York Times, 21 January, https://
www.nytimes.com/2017/01/21/fashion/melania-trump-inaugural-ballgown.html. Accessed 22 January 2017.
Kaiser, Susan B. (2012), Fashion and Cultural Studies, London: Berg.
Ledbetter, Carly (2016), ‘2016 is the year of celebrities apologizing for cultural
appropriation’, The Huffington Post, 3 November, http://www.huffingtonpost.
com/entry/2016-is-the-year-of-celebrities-apologizing-for-cultural-appropriation_us_581b9331e4b0aac62483017b?m=false. Accessed 15 December
Marcketti, Sara B. and Parsons, Jean L. (2016), Knocking it Off: A History of
Design Piracy in the US Women’s Ready-to-Wear Industry, Lubbock: Texas
Tech University Press.
Pham, Minh-Ha T. (2014), ‘Fashion’s cultural-appropriation debate:
Pointless’, The Atlantic, 15 May, http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/05/cultural-appropriation-in-fashion-stop-talkingabout-it/370826/. Accessed 15 August 2016.
Simmel, Georg ( 1957), ‘Fashion’, American Journal of Sociology, 62: 6,
Tulloch, Carol (2010), ‘Style-fashion-dress: From black to post-black’, Fashion
Theory, 14:3, 273–303.
Zerbo, Julie (2015), ‘Ralph Lauren has offended a Canadian Tribe with this
sweater’, 20 February, http://www.thefashionlaw.com/home/ralph-laurenhas-offended-a-canadian-tribe-with-this-sweater. Accessed 22 February
Denise Nicole Green is an Assistant Professor of Fashion Design,
Anthropology and American Indian and Indigenous Studies at Cornell
University. She is also Director of the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection
and a consulting scholar for the Center for Native American and Indigenous
Research at the American Philosophical Society. Her research uses ethno
graphy, fashion design and video production to explore embodied productions of identity.
Contact: T 37 Human Ecology Building, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853,
Denise Nicole Green | Susan B. Kaiser
Susan B. Kaiser is Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, and
Textiles and Clothing, at the University of California, Davis. Her research and
teaching bridge the fields of fashion studies and feminist cultural studies.
Recent and current interests include shifting masculinities; issues of space/
place (e.g., rural, urban, suburban); and possibilities for critical fashion studies through popular and political cultural discourses. She is the author of The
Social Psychology of Clothing (1997) and Fashion and Cultural Studies (2012),
and approximately 100 articles and book chapters in the fields of textile/fashion studies, sociology, gender studies, cultural studies, popular culture, and
Denise Nicole Green and Susan B. Kaiser have asserted their right under the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the authors of
this work in the format that was submitted to Intellect Ltd.
150 Fashion, Style & Popular Culture
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