A new semester means new classes – I’m incredibly excited. Ever since I started school, I have enjoyed nothing more than learning new things.
What makes these classes fun, however, is drawing new connections between things learned in class with everyday needs and events. One connection I never expected during my first lecture in technology and international relations was when we talked about Ötzi, the “Iceman” and his costume. While the bear fur hat, camouflage pants, and braided straw hat provided protection from harsh weather conditions, the tied pants and hat were strikingly similar to the fur-style boots and beanies sold today. To my surprise again, in the next lecture the professor explained how the color Tyrannian purple, also known as Phoenician red, came from marex, a sea snail shell.
After class my mind was racing on other forms of inspiration. I immediately thought of Moschino, a brand more transparent about its sources of inspiration, perfect for their whimsical and fun brand identity and mission, as seen in their McDonald’s, Barbie, Picasso and Paper Doll collections.
I can’t help but think about other brands that are more subtle. As seen with Raf Simon’s first haute couture collection as Dior’s creative director in 2012, some of it comes from more subtle sources of inspiration – perhaps from architecture, classical music, cultural events or the brand’s own history.
Simon’s work is very different from unknown designs and trends. Maybe my sudden increase in interest in the subject comes from my current intellectual property law class, but I think we’ve all experienced that frustration when you don’t get credit for your ideas, designs, etc.
In art and fashion, this happens often.
Vintage Case clearly acknowledges artist Barbara Kruger’s style for their logo. But this lack of credit generally sees trends and even begins to fall into cultural relevance. In the year In 2018, I still remember the backlash she received on Twitter when Twitter user Jeremy Lam responded virally saying, “My culture is not your worship dress” on a girl wearing a red qipao, a traditional Chinese dress, her promotional dress. A recent resurgence in fashion due to Kim Shui’s modernization means that there is a more traditional appreciation for qipaos, but unfortunately, there is more acceptance through homogenized marketing and insensitive fast fashion copies.
Another example? Y2K in general. Sometimes, inspiration for Y2K culture comes from movie clips like Cher’s matching yellow and plaid ensemble from “Clueless” (1995). But low-rise jeans, monograms, butterflies and even the invention of the salad dressing all came from the black community.
Y2K was really the epitome of cyberpunk and turn-of-the-century excitement, which is why Y2K style featured a lot of metal, silver and leather. Still, though, many guess where this came from: black artists and creators. Although more aligned with “Afrofuturism” in the 70s, trends were popularized and preserved throughout Y2K fashion history under singers such as Missy Elliott, Janet Jackson, and Destiny’s Child.
Asia holds on to beauty influences and hacks, for example the current viral way to apply foundation with a stainless steel spatula for a lightweight application, which comes from Korea. What about Japan? Shimmery eyeshadow and white eyeshadow palettes for that inner corner glow are finally starting to gain recognition. Of course, we can’t forget the holy grail that is now a staple in many morning routines originating from Chinese medicine: gua sha.
So many other aspects of fashion don’t get the recognition they deserve. For example, doorknocker earrings and hoops originated in Nubia, present-day Sudan, and were popular among Latinx and black communities. Darker lip liner? Same source as earrings.
But the common denominator of the aforementioned and other popular trends is not only that credit is not given where it’s due, it’s whitewashed by modern street style and casual wear.
Even gua sha is whitewashed, amethyst and rose quartz tools are now being sold. Sorry, friends, but it’s not really about the rock. It is usually made of jade, a stone popular and important to Asian and Chinese culture, but it is only a creative marketing method to buy the same thing with different stones for the same tool.
This appropriation has led to emotional moments and outrage among communities of color, with stories surfacing on TikTok about Hailey Bieber’s nude lip painting act, which was deemed a “brown gloss lip.” Bieber is celebrated because she, the white woman, popularized the everyday movement, while Latinx and black creators remember being bullied and called “ghetto” for the same look.
The foxy eye trend, particularly cropping false lashes and extending the lash line upwards for a Bella Hadid-esque emphasis, has created a similar buzz to “brown glossy lips”. He can make a humorous comment on the trends that Asian society is taking after his younger years, including making fun of their natural facial expressions.
Now, I’m not trying to blame Bieber or Hadid – they are public figures and influencers whether they intend to be or not. Their practices, including makeup, lingo and fashion, are followed to a T by their loyal devotees. But it is important to remember who helped create it.
I appreciate that people are becoming more sensitive to cultural relevance – it’s important not to ignore trends, either intentionally or unintentionally, and it can be a bit difficult to navigate trends with cultural and digital footprints. But if you’re adjusting the culture, it’s not difficult to just reflect and ask yourself or a third party. If these questions are playing out in a group of people, what you’re wearing has cultural significance, and your dressing/doing a trend makes culture easier.
My advice: Be curious and do your research, but don’t be afraid. Human error is one of the inexhaustible mistakes – we inevitably make mistakes. Be sure to never lose compassion and walk with purpose and an open mind. You never know what you will learn and from whom you will learn it.
Hadin Phillips is a secondary text that discusses fashion in the 21st century, particularly new trends and popular controversies. Her column, “This is Fashion, Sweet,” runs every Tuesday.