Did Designer Zuhair Murad Just Appropriate Indigenous Cultures?

First racism. Now appropriation. Turns out Couture Fashion Week is just as filled with scandal and controversy as it is with impeccably crafted gowns. On Wednesday, Lebanese fashion house Zuhair Murad presented its spring 2018 couture collection in Paris, with pieces that seemed to be heavily influenced by Indigenous cultures. And it was the execution that was problematic. Tent poles arched across from either side of the runway. The models wore feathers in their hair. And if the shows attendees had any doubt about what they were seeing, the show notes explicitly read: “Native American culture would be observed from a fantasized and respectful perspective.” Then, the label shared images from the collection on Instagram, hashtagging them “Indian Summer.” Sigh.
Photo: Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images.
The caption on one image read “numerous Native American cultures and tribes were yesterday’s inspiration,” while another stated, “#DoubleTheTrouble with @sarasampaio making her way down the runway in a fringed fitted gold jumpsuit and a mini A line Dress,” calling attention to the sequin pieces that came down the runway. The comments praised the clothing and, at the time of publication, on all four Instagram posts showcasing the designs, we only noticed one comment calling out the the hashtag. User @baebae03_87 responded: “Don’t title your show “Indian Summer” and have models wear feathers in their hair. This is cultural appropriation and at a time of the #metoo movement, you are taking voices away from Native/Indigenous Women. Your dresses could have been lovely with out that show title, feathers, and awkward spear teepees.”
For what it’s worth, it appears Zuhair Murad seems to know there was a chance the collection wouldn’t be received tastefully — yet they chose to move forth anyway. “For haute couture, it was risky, yes. But I said to myself, I want to go beyond my limits this time; I want to do a challenge,” the designer told Vogue backstage. “Most of the time, I am inspired by the past, and this is a kind of an homage and respect to the people who left us a very beautiful heritage of art, craftsmanship, and design.”
We've reached out to Zuhair Murad for comment and will update this piece if/when we hear back.

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