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Colonialism, Culture, and Copying

Cultural appropriation is a frequent theme in the world of fashion, from YSL's famous Ballets Russes collection to more or less any Dries Van Noten season.  In today's New York Times, Cintra Wilson casts a Critical Shopper's eye at the exuberant creations of Christian Lacroix -- and while she chastises the designer (and his clientele) for failing to age gracefully, the boutique's excesses inspired a series of creative mixed metaphors.  How often does slipping on a beaded bangle lead to colorful post-colonial political commentary?

While the rest of the developed world is circling Africa like a kettle of vultures, the French seem to be getting sentimental about the aesthetics of their old colonies.  It's a casual approach to the perpetual ransacking of pre-conquered cultures, old icons conveted into trendy adornments.  Old Gods are rendered symbolically meaningless at the moment that the dominant culture declares them adorable.  High fashion 1, Africa 0. 

For a lighter look at the connection between borrowed spirituality and material culture, enter the Blingdom of God.  Or pile on a few baubles of your own and enjoy my favorite work by Yeats.  Agree or disagree with his eloquent shrug at the end, there's no doubt that this coat's a  classic:

I made my song a coat 
Covered with embroideries 
Out of old mythologies 
From heel to throat; 
But the fools caught it,    
Wore it in the world’s eyes 
As though they’d wrought it. 
Song, let them take it 
For there’s more enterprise 
In walking naked.

Lacroix Spring 2008