Lively debate over in the comments section of ONTD on this one, with the Cultural Appropriation Police out in full force, condemning supermodel Miranda Kerr for wearing the outfits, Mario Testino for photographing them, and Anna Della Russo for orchestrating the whole “mess.” On the other hand, it IS in Japanese Vogue, after all, and you have to ask: Can a Japanese magazine “appropriate” its own culture? Isn’t that just paying tribute to their own heritage? Would it have been different if, say, a Japanese model (like Bae Chiharu, Tao Okamoto, or Kiko Mizuhara) had been used instead of Photoshopping Miranda to look vaguely Asian? No, no, no. That would never happen, the commenters say. “Vogue Japan rarely ever puts asian models on the cover,” asserts a commenter. “About once every five years,” chimes in another.
Besides, according to commenters who KNOW HOW THE JAPANESE FEEL, cultural appropriation doesn’t bother native Japanese people at all. “The entire concept doesn’t even fit in with them culturally.” So THERE.
“Of course it wouldn’t,” someone else responds, “since distortions of their culture don’t actually have any negative effects on their lives as they are the majority and thus don’t suffer from the consequences of having your culture being commodified and misrepresented, which is what people of Japanese descent living in other, especially Western, countries have to deal with.”
Meaning: It doesn’t matter whether the culture that’s being appropriated feels insulted or not, it’s still just wrong. Every single time.
Personally, I think the cover is gorgeous. The jacket is amazeballs and those marvelous geisha-esque rolls of hair on the cover fall just on the side of “hommage” rather than straight up theft. I would TOTALLY wear a wig like that. It’s tricky, though. There are so many wonderful looks from around the world that Western fashion loves to incorporate, and it would be a shame to someday be told that tartan or batik or little Tyrollean hats were off limits. On the other hand, I totally get it when, say, Native Americans say it’s offensive for Non-Native Americans to wear their religious headdresses, and would we please stop it. I often wonder though, if there’s a way to keep the idea, but put it in a different context. Keep the form of a feathered bonnet, but remove the Native American signifiers. I remember talking to someone about a possible Transformation, explaining that I wanted to do tribal, “but tribal from Mars. Or maybe a tribe of robots from the future.” Something completely free of any associations with African tribalism, which can be troubling, you know. Ditto for bindis. Tiny red dots maybe off limits, but what about giant silver ones? Making them more of a graphic statement. What about that?
Anyway, lots to chew on here. What do you think?