You might remember the Los Angeles Times caused a bit of a controversy back in the fall when they published a piece about hair trends that upset a lot of people for citing cornrows as one of the hottest hairstyles of the moment. In that piece, the Times attributed (Caucasian) Bo Derek as being one of the earliest adopters of this "trendy" hairstyle, and failed to mention a single black woman or the actual historical significance of cornrows in the process.
After all that, it seems fashion folks would do well to just stay away from the hairstyle altogether, right? Well, not exactly. It seems Valentino never got the memo about cultural appropriation being super uncool: The Italian fashion house just released its Pre-Fall 2015 Collection, and the campaign images feature models decked out in bohemian styling inspired by the flower children of the '60s and, oddly enough, cornrows in their hair.
It didn't take long for Twitter to react, and users are certainly not mincing their words when it comes to the issue of cultural appropriation in fashion.
bahahaha wow. 97 photos of rail-think white chicks in cornrows. http://t.co/ImMrqym9Ez Fashion is an appropriating, racist joke. oh lord.— Ari Dee (@SkibidyBoop) January 14, 2015
"Valentino chic-ify cornrows." Oh yeah, bc before they were just ghetto & not polished enough bc its origin is from black women.— Melody Walker (@melchristian_) January 14, 2015
Why this is problematic: leave it to white people! They'll take it from you, make it chic, &sell it back at a markup. pic.twitter.com/I9BO9z9bfX— nicolette mason (@nicolettemason) January 14, 2015
Cornrows at Valentino are 3 words I could never imagine having to utter. pic.twitter.com/MXN7SHf7rP— Nessa, Girl (@HRHPrinceFrank) January 14, 2015
It certainly doesn't help that the issue of cultural appropriation in pop culture overall has been top of mind for many since the start of the new year. Iggy Azalea has been facing widespread criticism for being seemingly oblivious about cultural appropriation in hip-hop. Her initial comments (or lack thereof) have sparked a ton of discussion, a few rounds of beef with Azaliea Banks, and even a hip-hop history lesson from Q-Tip (which Iggy claimed was "patronizing"). Kendrick Lamar has even managed to get himself thrown into the mix after his comments about the situation in a recent Billboard interview were widely panned.
Whichever side of the argument you're on, we think it's safe to say that during times like these where issues of oppression, racism, and cultural appropriation are top of mind for many, the subject of many conversations, and something that a lot of people feel very sensitive about, it's probably best for corporations, fashion houses, and brands to employ the following simple rule when it comes to things like cornrows: no matter what your intention, just don't do it, unless you're deliberately trying to upset people.