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Designer Zuhair Murad criticised for cultural appropriation

The fashion designer has been accused of being disrespectful towards Native American culture

Sabrina Barr
Saturday 27 January 2018 12:04 GMT
Zuhair Murad 2018 collection features Native American cultural appropriation

Fashion designer Zuhair Murad has been criticised for cultural appropriation during the catwalk for his spring/summer 2018 collection.

Models were spotted walking down the runway wearing pieces from the Lebanese designer’s haute couture collection with feathers in their hair.

The collection has been named “Indian Summer” and has been directly influenced by Native American culture, which a number of people find disrespectful.

“Native American culture - observed from a fantasised and respectful perspective - is at the heart of Zuhair Murad’s Spring 2018 Couture collection,” the fashion house states.

“The house pays homage to the craftsmanship of an array of ancient tribes, notably the Sioux, the Navajos, the Iroquois, and celebrates their traditional prints, embroideries, and pictograms.”

While Murad may have genuinely wanted to feature aspects of Native American culture in his collection as a sign of admiration, there are those who argue that doing so was ignorant.

An eagle feather is especially significant to Native Americans, as it’s a sacred symbol of freedom, wisdom, honour and strength.

However, feathers weren’t the only element of Native American culture featured during the show.

The runway was decorated with painted sticks on either side, in a clear nod to the traditional teepee.

A number of the dresses were also designed with patterns clearly inspired by Native American tribes.

One person took to Twitter to express their disapproval for Murad’s creative choice, stating: “Can we ask the stylist who thought feathers in the hair for a nod to Native American culture to… just not?”

Murad has admitted that choosing to highlight Native American culture as the focus of his collection was a daring decision.

“For haute couture, it was risky, yes,” he told Vogue backstage.

“But I said to myself, I want to go beyond my limits this time; I want to do a challenge.

“Most of the time, I am inspired by the past, and this is a kind of an homage and respect to the people who left us a very beautiful heritage of art, craftsmanship, and design.”

Native American culture has long been the subject of many instances of cultural appropriation.

Adrienne J. Keene, an American and Native American academic, writer and activist, has previously explained why adopting various elements of Native American culture is so problematic.

“Most often people who engage in cultural appropriation use the ‘respect’ and ‘honour’ argument to justify their actions - ‘But I think Native culture is so beautiful!’ or ‘I’m honouring Native Americans!’” she told Refinery29.

“To me, there is no respect in taking designs or cultural markers from a community, divorcing them from their meaning and context, and selling them for monetary gain.”

The Independent has reached out to Zuhair Murad for comment.

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