First came racism, then came cultural appropriation. For days, the Paris Couture Week is filled with scandals (note: if blissfully unaware of the latest haute tea, Google search Ulyana Sergeenko and Miroslava Duma racist slur). Yesterday, Zuhair Murad held his Spring/Summer 2018 show in the usual venue— the gilded hall of the Hotel Potocki in Paris’ chic 8th arrondissement. Inspired by Indigenous cultures, he decided to do something completely different. However, the execution was more than problematic. Arching across from either side of the runway, tent poles were the centerpiece of the show. Being from Lebanon, Murad perhaps does not fully understand that tepees paired with feathers in models’ hair represent a huge no-no in the Western world. The audience was stunned, and not in a good way. The show notes clearly read: “Native American culture would be observed from a fantasized and respectful perspective.” But, then the famed maison shared some photos of the collection on Instagram, hashtagging them “Indian Summer”. Oh, no!
Ignorance aside, the collection was true to Murad’s recognizable silhouette and form. The exquisite embroidery and tailoring aesthetically matched the designer’s long-established haute status. According to the designer statement, the collection was inspired by “ancient tribes, notably the Sioux, the Navajos and the Iroquois.” Murad used “references from Native American culture as inspirations to rethink and liven up classical ball gowns.” The show opened with all-white outfits, embellished with beading and feathers. The accent was more on the detailing than the materials used. Strong A-line shapes, capes and skirts came in different forms, mainly in jacquard enriched with Aztec-esque motifs and sophisticated decorations. The pieces that particularly stood out were the fringed gold jumpsuit, a mini gold A-line dress, and a princess gown in red jacquard printed with shimmering silk thread in forms of arrowheads and “symbolic drawings”. Assuming this idea could be risky and get him in lots of fashion trouble, after the show Murad stated for Vogue that “the clients today believe in my taste, and they tell me they trust me and will follow me. For haute couture, it was risky, yes. 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.” Did he showcase a risky collection? Yes. Did he show respect? Definitely no.
Photo credit: The Impression