Thanks for visiting again! Today I want to talk a little bit about a subject I heard about not too long ago, what people feel about it, and what is the truth behind it.
Pictured above is high fashion designer Christian Louboutin and his Africaba tote bag that he released earlier this year. The tote is/was priced at $1,250.00 (currently sold out) and the design is inspired by the artwork and craftsmanship of West African cultures, particularly Senegal.
The issue came in with the general public because it was suddenly deemed that Christian Louboutin was appropriating African culture for his own personal profit…
But is that really the case?
Well first let’s define CULTURAL APPROPRIATION…
According to Wikipedia:
Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture… According to authors in the field, cultural (mis)appropriation differs from acculturation or assimilation in that the “appropriation” or “misappropriation” refers to the adoption of these cultural elements in a colonial manner: elements are copied from a minority culture by members of the dominant culture, and these elements are used outside of their original cultural context—sometimes even against the expressed, stated wishes of representatives of the originating culture.
Often, the original meaning of these cultural elements is lost or distorted, which means that these uses may be viewed as disrespectful by members of the originating culture, or even as a form of desecration. Cultural elements which may have deep meaning to the original culture can be reduced to “exotic” fashion by those from the dominant culture. When this is done, the imitator, “who does not experience that oppression is able to ‘play,’ temporarily, an ‘exotic’ other, without experiencing any of the daily [discrimination] faced by other cultures.”
According to Urban Dictionary:
Cultural Appropriation is the very real theft of the elements of a minority culture, stolen by the majority, and joined into pop culture, without acknowledging the original creators of that culture. Elements that the original culture are usually made fun of for embracing, but are made trendy by the majority while abusing its significance. Anyone can appropriate culture.
According to apractialwedding.com:
…cultural appropriation is when you take bits of someone else’s culture, typically that of an oppressed group, and adopt it for your own purposes, stripping the object of its significance in the process. For example: wearing a Native American headdress as a Halloween costume. Or crediting a white celebrity with adopting cornrows as an “edgy new hairstyle.”
Okay, so we have three definitions now. Let’s think again. Did Christian Louboutin really commit cultural appropriation when he created the Africaba tote bag???
Personally I don’t think so.
I’m the first to call out cultural appropriation when needed, it’s something that truly disgusts me. But we all have to realize that there is a difference between appropriation and actual inspiration and appreciation for a culture outside of our own.
It’s pretty clear: the people who accused Louboutin of cultural appropriation in this case did NOT do their research. Like at all.
With just a few words typed and a couple Google clicks, I easily found the truth behind the new Africaba tote. According to the official Louboutin online shop, the tote bag is described as such:
“Africaba” was designed to help you give back in style this season. This soft-bodied shopper is dressed in a vibrant palette of traditional African prints and finished with leather handles lined in Loubi red, accented by colorful beads and signature spikes. An artisanal version of the iconic CL crest and a chic embroidered logo complete this dynamic carry-all. Ten percent of proceeds from this exclusive style will go to support La Maison Rose, a French charity that provides aid relief to Senegalese women and children.
Did you catch that last part? Yes, TEN PERCENT OF PROCEEDS is donated to support the french Charity La Maison Rose! La Maison Rose “provides a welcoming home to the most vulnerable women and children in Senegal, while educating women in traditional [Senegalese] embroidery and craftsmanship.” (source)
So you mean to tell me that African craftsmanship has been recreated to benefit the people of the African culture that inspired the bag in the first place? Yes exactly! So people, no this is not cultural appropriation. Louboutin has openly expressed where the inspiration came from, and even went as far as to give back to the culture that he “took” from, which he didn’t actually have to do. Acknowledgement is all that was needed to cancel out the social crime of cultural appropriation, but he still took it another step further, and I applaud him.
Now I’m not a religious Louboutin follower, so I don’t know if he’s slipped and committed the appropriation crime in any of his other pieces. However, I think it’s safe to say he’s innocent when it comes to this tote.
Besides, nobody said that you couldn’t enjoy the styles and fashions of other cultures (at least not anyone with a normal working brain). This is one major reason why I love fashion so much: after math, fashion is a universal language! It should be bringing us closer together, not segregating us.
Rushing to accuse someone of cultural appropriation just creates more separation in my opinion. And as a black woman who was born and raised and still lives in a very predominately black community, I know how my people can be. I just feel that we as black people, in America and beyond, should take a moment and realize that our culture is just as worth celebration as any other!
Black is so hot right now! (And should always be…)
And trust me I get the frustration. Because if I hear the words “boxer braids” one more time, I will punch the first Kardashian looking girl I can find … Haha just kidding. But seriously. We should be slow to anger and quick to recognize our SLAY.
Black been beautiful, so why not let the rest of the world shout us out as well. That’s all I’m saying ^_^
Please Follow & KIT !
IG &Twitter: @itsalexjordan