‘It’s fun when the trends start in the street, and someone saw a Latin girl on the subway and decided that would be the look,’ said a hairstylist backstage at Givenchy’s Autumn/Winter 2015 show at Paris Fashion Week on Sunday.
Creative director Riccardo Tisci held one of the most eye-catching shows of the week so far. He sent models down the runway in dark Victorian-inspired looks (great!) paired with costume septum piercings, face jewels and slicked-down baby hairs (waaait a minute…) and passionately declared to Vogue that they were his ‘Chola Victorian’ girls (okay, stop).
‘Chola’ is a word used to describe Latina people, that was originally derogatory, but is now mostly reclaimed by Latina people in America. The hairstyle of baby hairs slicked down in intricate patterns is one that has been worn by black and Latina girls in America for decades. It started out as something done for practical reasons but over the years has become a strong identifier for these two cultural groups in America. However, as Jezebel‘s Kara Brown points out, the style, and the girls who wear it, have over the years been marginalised and called ‘ghetto’ or ‘hood’.
The style was popularised by singer FKA Twigs since about 2012 and made its way into mainstream high fashion when Cara Delevingne sported the look in a DKNY ad campaign and has since been seen on the runways at DKNY last year, Adam Selman this year and now, Givenchy.
Tisci might argue that he used Latina girls as his inspiration for the show, but when you take aspects of a culture and use them without acknowledging or including the people from that culture in any meaningful way, it’s not inspiration. It’s appropriation. The below illustration sums up the concept very well.
To make the point even more obvious was the complete lack of models of colour walking in the Givenchy show. To my knowledge, only four models of colour (Joan Smalls, Ajak Deng, Lineisy Montero and Maria Borges) featured.
Riccardo Tisci as we know him, was probably very well-intentioned. He has made huge strides in trying to make the fashion industry more inclusive and accessible. Last year, he featured Julia Roberts wearing no make up in his ad campaign and in 2010 featured his muse and friend, transgender model LeaT. But in his position of power as someone who has massive influence in the fashion world, runway shows like this one can’t go unchecked.