Why Is This Dress Causing Controversy At Cannes?

In addition to showcasing the highlights of next season's best looks, the red carpet often functions as a stage for public figures to make statements that go beyond what they're wearing; and, yes, sometimes those culturally or politically significant looks miss the mark. The latest ensemble to cause a stir on the red carpet was unveiled at this year's Cannes Film Festival, and people aren't happy.
Israel's Minister of Culture and Sports, Miri Regev, walked the carpet in a custom gown that was meant to celebrate the anniversary of the reunification and and liberation of Jerusalem, with a landscape of the city printed across its hem. But, as a range of European newspapers and plenty of folks on Twitter pointed out, the sentiment wasn't all that well received. The dress, designed by Swedish-based Israeli costume designer Aviad Arik Herman, features the Western Wall, the Tower of David, and the Dome of the Rock.
In a statement to the The Guardian, Regev explained her reasoning behind the commissioned look. “This year we are celebrating 50 years since the liberation and reunification of Jerusalem,” she told the publication. “I am proud to celebrate this historic date through art and fashion, and I am happy that this work by Israeli designer Aviad Herman is so moving and honors the beautiful status of our eternal capital Jerusalem.”
Israel declared Jerusalem reunified after the Six-Day War (the Arab-Israeli war fought by Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria) in 1967; some read into the timing of Regev's choice of dress and the fact that the War's anniversary is coming up in a couple of weeks. But Palestinians and the United Nations consider the eastern part of the city to be under Israeli occupation. And, to note: Regev is a member of the right-wing, Benjamin Netanyahu-led Likud Party, and she was at the festival as a guest of the Israel Pavilion. For a moment of "celebration through art and fashion," Regev's outfit seemed more like a political statement to many.
In addition to being called "colonial" and "tasteless," the look has spurred a range of negative reactions and memes of the dress. But, the designer of Regev's look remains positive, and he celebrating the step-and-repeat moment on his personal Instagram. While fashion and politics can often dovetail successfully, especially in today's political landscape, perhaps this is a look that could've been approached and executed a bit differently.

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