Fashion Discussion: Valentino Styles White Models in Cornrows for Spring 2016 Campaign; Is It Problematic?

Many of us remember the outrage that sparked over Valentino’s decision of styling a largely white cast of models in cornrows. First, it was the 2015 lookbook and accompanying campaign that raised eyebrows; then, it was the “Africa” themed spring 2016 show where less than 10 black models walked the runway. Ideas and comments of cultural appropriation sparked fire on the Internet, where even celebrities cited their frustration with the brand’s decision to dismiss people’s frustration and continue to do what they wanted.
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Well, once again Valentino has provided a collection and accompanying beauty looks of white models styled in non-European clothing and cultural looks, ironically shot in a Maasai village in Kenya’s National park. Guido Palau, the lead hairstylist for the spring 2016 campaign, explained that “the clothes have some tribal inspiration, so the hair has that feeling as well…It’s a bit influenced by the ’60s and ’70s when girls used to travel and they would bring back inspiration from other places and cultures, which is kind of an eclectic way of styling yourself.” (Vogue)

Valentino-Styles-White-Models-In-Spring-2016-Campaign-In-Africa1However, we’ve seen time and time again this idea of cultural appropriation of one culture versus another, or how one culture is glorified while another is criticized. Many publications have remarked on how Valentino is insensitive to exactly what it means to culturally appropriate, but it seems the ‘aesthetic’ of the brand is not changing anytime soon. How is it that fashion brands such as Valentino refuse to employ African or African-American models for runway, yet display them as a backdrop in the Spring 2016 campaign?

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Discussions have been circulating between people who think these ads are awful and others who believe that powerful fashion brands can do whatever they want and that there is nothing wrong with one culture embodying another.
What do you think of the ads and where do you fall in the discussion?

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