Cultural Appropriation: A Marketing Strategy
The Art of Clickbait
How many times have we, as a community, had to educate a publication, corporation, or public figure on cultural appropriation as well as the erasure of Black culture and its influence? How many times have we “cancelled” or boycotted a brand for missing the mark on offensive designs, clothing items, and ads? How many official statements were released expressing the same aloof apology, ensuring they had no intention of causing harm but remain continuously devoted to diversity? The answer: too many times. So when Vogue decided to publish an article titled, Kim Kardashian West Is Bringing Crimped Hair Back in a Big Way, your eye roll was warranted. Here we go again. Black Twitter was quick to correct Vogue, providing ample examples of Black women who’ve been wearing crimped hair since the 80’s. Some twitter users argued the style never went anywhere and Kim Kardashian is just doing what she always does: culturally appropriating. But Vogue and other publications are also doing what they always do: offend and erase Black culture in one headline then let us sit and rage. Why? Because it’s working. As they say, any publicity is good publicity and Vogue, Gucci, and others receive their fair share of it this year.
It is hard to say, in 2019, with the quality of discourse that exists about women of color and people of color, that Vogue is not aware of what a title like the one they wrote may ensue. In fact, one might go so far as to say they knew exactly what they were doing. Kim Kardashian’s ignorance of her privilege in cultural appropriation makes for great marketing, when you embellish it with ownership and validation. She becomes the perfect weapon to ignite the twitter fingers, which baits the most influential market, Black people, to engage with their content. Ironically, upon reading the article, the theme seemed to be more about Kim Kardashian’s ability to rock fashion week looks in a myriad of ways with crimped hair, which was seen on the runway this year.
Although the Kardashians choose to be unaware of their continued practice of cultural appropriation, Vogue chose to claim Kim as a trend setter. Kim Kardashian passively addressed the backlash in an Instagram post, which is not surprising. What would be more surprising and appropriate, is a response from Vogue acknowledging their choice and where it fits in the continuous erasure of Black culture’s influence on fashion. Vogue, publications, companies, and designers have a responsibility to articulate a narrative that is representative of the many diverse voices, people, and trends in the fashion industry. Misrepresenting the history, progression, context, and people in the industry is a decision that deserves more conversation than the chronic Culture Vultures utilized for clickbait.