Cultural Appropriation in the Fashion Industry: A Critical Examination

Khemaïs Ben Lakhdar on Cultural Appropriation and Domination

Khemaïs Ben Lakhdar, a doctoral candidate in art history at Sorbonne and affiliated with the French Institute of Fashion, delves into the contentious issue of cultural appropriation within the fashion sector. In his recent work titled “Cultural Appropriation: History, Domination, and Creation: Origins of Western Pillaging,” Ben Lakhdar posits that cultural appropriation fundamentally involves the dominant group appropriating and recontextualizing cultural artifacts, often from marginalized communities, primarily for capitalist purposes. This process, he argues, not only strips these artifacts of their original context and meaning but also perpetuates stereotypes rooted in colonial histories.

The 19th Century and New Discoveries: Shaping Modern Fashion

Ben Lakhdar’s research traces the historical roots of cultural appropriation to the 19th century, a pivotal era marked by Western colonial expansion and the introduction of exotic goods into European markets. According to his findings, this influx of foreign objects stimulated a creative resurgence in Western artistic circles. Historians and literary figures of the time, facing a crisis of artistic innovation known as historicism, turned to these novel cultural artifacts to rejuvenate and redefine Western artistic expressions.

This historical context underscores the complex interplay between cultural exchange and appropriation in the evolution of fashion. Ben Lakhdar’s insights highlight how the fashion industry has historically absorbed and commodified cultural symbols and practices, often without proper acknowledgment or respect for their origins. This discussion prompts critical reflection on the ethical implications of fashion’s role in perpetuating cultural stereotypes and inequalities through appropriation.

Ben Lakhdar’s work challenges us to reconsider the dynamics of cultural borrowing within the fashion world and advocates for a more conscientious approach to creativity that respects and honors diverse cultural legacies.

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