Wendi Muse at Racialicious offers an excellent critique of coverage of an African fashion show at the New York Times.  The New York Times explains that “In the 2009 spring season, African style is a drumbeat through the clothes and accessories” and the descriptions are repleat with words like “drumbeat,” “spicy,” and “tribal.”  I summarize some of Muse’s analysis after the images:






Muse argues that the word “Africa” is a lazy shortcut for actual descriptions of the fashion trend. She writes:

Instead of talking about geometric prints, the use of found objects as jewelry items, and color choices in a way that could be deemed appropriate and less offensive, they shade their words with sweeping generalizations and talk about “Africa” like a one trick pony.

Africa, she reminds us, is not a homogeneous place.  Instead, when the term is used in this way, it refers to an “imagined Africa,” a fake Africa, an Africa that people in the U.S. like to pretend exists.  But replacing reality with imagination is to make caricatures of actual Africans and real African cultures.  Muse concludes:

I find it humorous that the only time we ever see any reference to people of color on the runway is when they are practically mocking the cultures from which they originated with outlandish re-creations of “ethnic” style. I think it is wonderful to find inspiration in various cultures’ customs and traditions, especially when it comes to fashion, but there are far better ways to discuss said inspiration without patronizing, belittling, or oversimplifying said cultures.

More examples of fashion (slide)shows like this can be found here and here.  More ethnic fashion here and here.

Also see invoking the primitive in 1950s advertising and globalizing the kimono.

Via Jezebel.

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