Photo Courtesy of Shanghai Tang
I recently met with a newly made friend to discuss the future of our respective blogs. Both of us interested in similar markets, that which goes by the name of China, we clearly had a lot to talk about!
Although coming from different perspectives, we both agreed that the world in which we live is fascinating, with metaphorical bridges being constructed across large bodies of cultural discrepancies everyday. We want to know more about our neighbors across the world! And we want to share that knowledge with others.
In fashion, we are always trying to push the limits, seeing just how for we can take a story while remaining relatable. Since the world of fashion transcends borders, we attempt to show appreciation for the styles, traditional and new, of other cultures. As it relates to my passion for Chinese culture and fashion, I have always had a special place in my heart for things like Jade, and fans, and Qipao. On my blog, the intention was to always break down the walls “protecting” these relics, and introduce their beauty to the western world by exposing them in modern day contexts.
However in the midst of conversation with my colleague and friend, she brought to my attention that I should tread carefully with this sort of work. That I was at a slight risk for Cultural Appropriation, because I am not in fact ethnically Chinese. And the idea of pretending to be was a little risky.
Is this really an issue? My opinion on the matter had always vacillated between that of Cultural Appreciation vs Cultural Appropriation. I fully understand the concept that people do not want their cultures mocked and sometimes it’s only ok to make certain references if you are a descendant of the culture itself. However in fashion, is it not the point to make cross-border references? Are we supposed to act like these things don’t exist? In Chinese culture, tradition is a major facet of their modern day society. I have all the respect in the world for China’s millennial, designer and fashionista alike, who want to be recognized as internationally bred, not just Chinese. But sometimes those traditional items are swept under the rug at its expense.
Is a western women wearing Chinese nostalgia really Cultural Appropriation? Where do we draw the line? Maybe it begs for the creation of a new term all together, one that is untainted by the disrespectful undertones of appropriation.
I’d love to hear your opinions on this so please leave your thoughts below!