Le 6 novembre 2015, 07:21 dans Humeurs • 0
Halloween season just ended, and brought with it the attendant high times for the cultural appropriation wars.
It will be easy enough to let these questions slip until next October. But really, cultural appropriation is a year-round hustle, and nowhere more so than in the fashion world.
The fashion industry's breakneck pace of innovation has always prompted designers to incorporate other cultures' distinctive looks to stay fresh. Just think of Paul Poiret's harem pants and tunics in the 1910s, Yves Saint Laurent's beaded and feathered "African collection" in 1967, or Hermes' stylized Indian saris and jodhpurs in 2007.
The line between inspiration and appropriation is blurry, however, and easily veers, even in 2015, into shockingly tasteless territory. Like in Valentino's most recent "Africa-inspired" show, where, as Fashionista pointed out, the mostly-white models all sported cornrows, apparently without irony. Cringe.
In light of blunders like these, it seems like the only safe option might be to send out models every season in blue jeans and sneakers.
But there may be a better way to respectfully use other cultures' designs, and Oskar Metsavaht, founder and creative director of the Brazilian sportswear label Osklen, is leading the pack.
Osklen's spring 2016 collection, which showed earlier this month in New York and Sao Paulo, was inspired by the designs of the Asháninka, an indigenous people who live in the Brazilian and Peruvian rainforest. In return for permission to adapt their tattoos and traditional fabrics, Osklen paid the tribe. With that money, the Asháninka have been able to make various improvements, including building a school.
Metsavaht is also working to publicize the Asháninka's fight against illegal loggers and environmental degradation of their native forest. An 18-minute documentary about daily life in the Ashaninka community, directed by Metsavaht (who moonlights as a photographer and musician), is streaming on the Osklen website. And the collection itself is called Ashaninka. You can buy a T-shirt emblazoned with its name.
If this completism seems remarkable, it is, but it is also totally in character for Metsavaht, one of the first designers in the world to produce sustainable fashion. It was in his native Brazil, where countries first convened in 1992 and coined the term "sustainable development," at the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. His 2012 collection, called A21, was inspired by the "successes and failures" of that Summit's Agenda 21, as Metsavaht told VICE.
Metsavaht's cerebral design process often comes about in this way, blossoming from a trip, idea or concept. He began his career as a doctor, created a winter sportswear line in 1990, and shifted to luxury fashion in 2000. He was dubbed "Brazil's first global luxury brand" by Forbes in 2012 and is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. He also runs an art gallery and Instituto-E, a non-profit that encourages sustainable human development through projects like developing environmentally friendly fabrics.
I spoke to the polymath about his unique take on cultural exchange and how to make eco-fashion cool.
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