Chanel’s Latest Campaign Includes Bantu Knots and Cornrows

(Photo: Chanel)
Are these Bantu knots the next cultural-appropriation blunder? (Photo: Chanel)

Year after year, spring collections bring us florals, pops of pastel, and carefree hair along with their designs. But now Chanel’s Spring/Summer 2017 presentation has us wondering: Could Bantu knots and cornrows be the new normal?

The vision of the latest campaign, featuring model Arizona Muse shot by Karl Lagerfeld, was referred to in a press release as a “play with contrasts as he captures the metamorphosis of a contemporary creature, one minute a pop Lolita, the next a cyber punk.”

(Photo: Chanel)
Model Arizona Muse wears Bantu knots and cornrows for Chanel’s SS17 ad campaign. (Photo: Chanel)

But while some may see the hairstyle as an inspirational fashion statement, others around the world have had to protest just to have the right to wear the same look to school. That double standard begs the question: Are such designers showing cultural appreciation, or are they culturally appropriating for profit?

During the Marc Jacobs SS17 show, the question of cultural appropriation also came up as the designer sent white models down the runway wearing multicolor-dyed faux dreadlocks. The hair look created a firestorm of criticism on social media, and Jacobs only made escalated the matter when he responded with a tweet noting, “…funny how you don’t criticize women of color for straightening their hair.”

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 15: Model Gigi Hadid with a Hairdress detail at the runway at the Marc Jacobs show on September 15, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Estrop/WireImage)
Model Gigi Hadid wearing faux dreadlocks on the catwalk at the Marc Jacobs SS17 show. (Photo: Estrop/WireImage)

There were also sightings of Bantu knots at Valentino’s SS15 show, where hairstylist Guido Palau’s inspiration was apparently a “very girlie, punky vibe.” But there have been many other earlier moments where culturally appropriated hairstyles were at the forefront of “inspiration,” including from Chanel and DKNY:

British model Jodie Kidd shows off a roughly woven jacket with red and blue stripes worn with a matching skirt on October 17, 1997 during the presentation in Paris of Chanel's Spring-Summer 98 ready-to-wear collection designed by German stylist Karl Lagerfeld. / AFP / Pierre VERDY (Photo: Getty Images)
Back in 1997, Karl Lagerfeld styled a ready-to-wear Chanel SS98 presentation where models strutted down the runway with intricately styled dreadlocks. (Photo: Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 07: A model walks the runway at the DKNY Women's fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2015 on September 7, 2014 in New York City. (Photo: Getty Images)
There was also “baby hair,” another style popularly worn in black culture, on this white model at DKNY’s Spring 2015 women’s show. (Photo: Getty Images)

Whether it’s giving credit when credit is due or, at the bare minimum, casting more models of color in these high-end ad campaigns, designers are going to have to switch up their routines soon. Otherwise, things could get real ugly.

But New York Fashion week isn’t until February — which should be more than enough time to pull it together, folks.

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