Fashion Stereotyping

Greta Chapin McGill - December 16, 2013

"Native Americans and people of the African diaspora have cultures deserving recognition and respect."

There are no copyright laws in art. Visual artists whom take their inspiration from travel, history, literature (and other artists) acknowledge this shared vision in a document known as “the artist statement.”  This document allows due and deserved credit to be given to whatever inspired the work.  Set and costume designers are inspired by the subject of the play or film.  Musicians are often inspired by words of poets.  There is always room for creativity in life.  However, in the words of Nina Garcia of Marie Clair magazine “fashion is not art.”
Obvious inspiration should be credited.  In the fashion arena there is always controversy around creativity.  Most clothing designers identify inspiration for their work which may include availability of fabric, dyes, culture or the viewing of other designers images or the written word.  
Trends in fashion come, go, and come back again.  There is always a reworking of ideas.  Roy Halston Frowick, known simply as Halston, is quoted as saying that the inspiration for his minimalistic prints came from Kandinsky.  He also credited “fashionable people” such as his muse Liza Minnelli for personal inspiration.  Fashion magazines like Vogue, Bazaar and Marie Claire all print stories and photos of fashions “inspired by...” 
One of the most talented, Native American designers working today, Project Runway Season 11's first runner-up Patricia Michaels/PM Waterlily.  In a distressing turn of events, the fashion world has taken the Taos native’s internationally photographed designs and virtually copied them in a season replete with “Native Inspired” fashion.  Not a bad thing.  She is a visionary on the fashion horizon, but she has not gotten the recognition for her talent, her inspiration, and cultural creativity from the industry.  
Dec. 9, 2013, German designer and current Creative Director of the the high fashion house of Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, presented the Metiers d'Art show in Dallas featuring designs he referred to as inspired by “old Texas before the civil war.”  He claimed his designs needed no inspirational credit because, “I have so many images already I just have to research my brain.”  Lagerfeld, who admits to being born somewhere around 1933 did no research (that he will admit to) in the creation of this line.  Nina Garcia who had true Native American Designer Patricia Michaels in front of her during season 11 of Project Runway posted on Instagram that she was obsessed with these clothes.  She dismissed Michaels' designs as “artsy craftsy.”  Equally distressing is Dolce & Gabbana’s Spring 2013 collection with fabrics and accessories depicting the subservient status of African Americans and unflattering depictions of African American women. (View the images.)  Some accessories were called "slave earrings" by Vogue Italia. No African or African American models were booked for this show. 
Native Americans and people of the African diaspora have cultures deserving recognition and respect.  An aerial photo of Michaels' Project Runway finale show is posted tucked amidst Lagerfeld’s media presentation. (View the image.)  One would think this was a photo from his show – no credit is given to the real designer.  Shame.  Where does this cultural stereotyping end?