Photography via Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty

Zuhair Murad is the Latest Designer to Foray into Cultural Appropriation

Cue the groans

Zuhair Murad, the high-end designer known for his angelic gowns, and celebrity red carpet appearances, made a serious misstep with his Spring 2018 couture show in Paris this week.

Photography via IMAXTREE

The show featured a confusing mishmash of influences, including loosely-inspired Navajo prints reminiscent of Urban Outfitters circa 2013, rhinestone cowboy fringe details that wouldn’t have looked out of place on an Elvis impersonator, as well as vague country-western influences such as cacti motifs on ball gowns.

According to Vogue Runway, the collection was based on Native American culture “observed from a fantasized and respectful perspective.” Yet it’s unclear what exactly is respectful about taking an eagle feather–a sacred symbol that confers great honour upon the wearer–and affixing it to a white model who parades it down a couture runway.

Photography via IMAXTREE

In an interview, Murad claimed he was aware his design inspiration was “risky” but continued, “I want to go beyond my limits this time; I want to do a challenge.”

If taken out of context, Murad’s designs might not even register as being appropriative considering how loosely based on traditional designs they are. But when the clothing is presented on a runway featuring teepee poles, and the collection is titled, no joke, “Indian Summer,” it all amounts to a big old mess.

Photography via IMAXTREE

“The clients today believe in my taste, and they tell me they trust me and will follow me,” Murad continued. Only time will tell if he’s right. But in the meantime, the backlash to his thoughtless collection has already begun.

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