Fashion designer-activist Nareasha Willis said it best: “Ghetto Until Proven Fashionable.”
French luxury brand Balenciaga is being accused of cultural appropriation –– again. This time, the fashion house is coming under fire for selling trousers that give the illusion of sagging, a fashion style popularized by Black youth in the 90s that was deemed inappropriate and unacceptable. That is until Balenciaga started charging $1,200 for a pair of pants that include a built-in pair of exposed boxers for their wearer to sport to create the sagging look.
“They’ve really just gentrified sagging,” one person wrote on Twitter.
The Serious Side
Sometimes understanding the depths of cultural appropriation is difficult for some who see fashion as an art form that transcends race. However, the consequences of fashion and beauty looks originated and mastered by Black people being co-opted in such a way are serious.
Some counties in the US have laws on the books banning sagging in public, adding to the layer of discriminatory policing practices.
In February 2019, 31-year-old Anthony Childs was fatally shot by police in Shreveport, Louisiana after officers tried to detain him for violating the county’s “no sagging pants” law. The ACLU at the time estimated that 96% of arrests made under Shreveport’s ordinance were Black men. The law was eventually repealed.
Not the First Time
In 2017, Balenciaga was accused of culturally appropriating the iconic Ruff Ryders’ logo on a shirt. Swizz Beats took to Instagram at the time, calling the brand out, and wondering what the company would do for aspiring fashion designers in the Bronx and Harlem.
“This is the Ruff Ryders original version from 2000,” the producer wrote, tagging the fashion house. “What are we doing??? Call me back blessings. I might just want you to open up a fashion school in the Bronx or Harlem. Just so you can give back to the culture!”
Balenciaga is not the only brand to get called out for ripping designs and styles from Black people and Black designers.
Earlier this year, Guess caught flack for an attempt to sell an eerily similar bag as the popular Telfar bag. The legendary Dapper Dan was brought on Gucci’s design board after the brand used one of his originals in a runway show without credit. Pioneering hip-hop stylist Misa Hylton was named a creative partner at MCM after years of creating impactful pieces in fashion that haven’t gone away. The list really could go on.
For now, we’ll wait for the brand’s response.