After the backlash against white models with dreadlocks in his latest show, Marc Jacobs issued a staggeringly tone-deaf response.”>
Between the snooty fashion elite, the absurdist after parties, and the clothes you would have to sell both kidneys in order to fit into/afford, New York Fashion Week is a perfect example of why average Americans think that New Yorkers are out of touch. The irony, of course, is that most New Yorkers hate fashion week, as its annual arrival fills our venues and streets with the worst sorts of peacocks and PR girls, while simultaneously marking the relentless march of time. In addition to PVC and pink eye, out-of-touch cultural crimes appear to have been one of the top trends of this summers NYFW. The festivities were bookended by two controversial shows, Kanye Wests Yeezy Season 4 and Marc Jacobs’s white dread extravaganza.
Kanye Wests Yeezy line has been described, by Kanye West, as one of the leading trendsetting brands now. If youve recently been overtaken by a strange urge to wear a nude sports bra to the club or buy a suedette crop top at Forever 21, thank Kanye West. Yeezy tried to keep hype high at his Season 4 show by bussing fashion influencers and fans to an abandoned hospital on Roosevelt Island. As SNLs Stefon would say, this show had it all: a decrepit smallpox hospital, pissed off reporters, models fainting under the relentless sun, a disturbing lack of moral center, and Jonathan Cheban.
Yeezys show was the latest in a long line of collaborations between the rapper and artist Vanessa Beecroft, who recently came under fire for her deeply offensive, off-brand Rachel Dolezal musings. Beecroft, who took inspiration for Yeezy Season 3 from a photograph of refugees escaping the Rwandan genocide, explains, The image came out of one of my books, and I thought, Perhaps this is Woodstock, because it looked really fashionable and glamorous, but no. That was a refugee camp I wanted the people to look poor. Her nausea-inducing oral history continues, Real poverty, what you encounter when you travel to Africa, Mexico, those countries where people wear their clothes with dignity and they look elegant and they look like they have intelligence. Beecrofts interviewer opined that the artist sorts color-coded bodies like human Pantone chips.
Kanyes sartorial work has been plagued by related accusations of colorism, racial insensitivity, and the use of black women as props. In a controversial casting call for Season 4, West asked for multiracial women only. Under the shiny veneer of multiculturalism and accessibility, the rappers vision seemed to echo a Eurocentric devaluing of darker skin tones. More concerning, the street-cast beauties were used as little more than human statues at the Roosevelt Island spectacularafter being commanded to stand sentry in the summer heat, clad in full looks, a handful of women sat down or even fainted in the sun. Wests team was slow to aid these employees; meanwhile, the real, professional models were given humane runway walks and allowed to leave the island sans heatstroke.
In Yeezy Season 4, anonymous women of color put their bodies on the line to help Kanye West sell perspex. The sickening spectacle begged the question of who ultimately profits from fashion, and whose labor pays the price. Ultimately, this unanswered question mark wove its way from Roosevelt Island to 34th Streets Hammerstein Ballroom, where beloved designer Marc Jacobs sent white models down the runway in colorful wool dreadlocks. Guido Palau, who styled the dreadlocks, cited, the 80s, raver culture, Boy George, and Harajuku as references, explaining that with the colors many of the girls looked quite cyber. He emphasized that Rasta culture was not an inspiration on the runway. Even for the famously ridiculous fashion world, the idea that dreads invoke Boy George before black hairstyles is downright ludicrous. As The Daily Beasts Tim Teeman noted, the ensuing cries of cultural appropriation were as sure as an outbreak of flared culottes following seasons of skinny jeans.