Today marks the 56th anniversary of Jamaica, the land we love's independence day. In celebratory fashion we’re dedicating this week to unveiling the icons, street trends and snippets of history that have collectively made Jamaica the cultural powerhouse it is today. “Nuh undaestimate wi, wi likkle but tallawah” (meaning: "do not underestimate us, we are small but we are strong and fearless") is the phrase that sums up Jamaican culture, which you'll come to appreciate as we take you through stories of how such a small island has had so much impact on the world.
Whether you believe it’s appreciation, or rather appropriation there’s no denying that the island has influenced many industries across the globe, including one particular industry... fashion. From the styles descending from the Jamaican rude boys, to the red, green and gold of the Rastafari flag, we’re revealing how 3 designer brands have taken inspiration from such a small but mighty nation both on and off runway...
1. Christian Dior's Rasta Collection
(John Galliano's early-2000s collections)
Featuring red, gold and green striped heels, bags, quilted snow boots and even a snowboard (God knows what they were thinking), Dior's Rasta collection led to tons of backlash after appropriating Rastafarianism. The collection was designed by John Galliano, a Gibraltar-born British-Spanish fashion designer who clearly had no knowledge of Jamaican culture, let alone Rastafarianism, misinterpreting what it meant to take inspiration from something, rather than stealing and trivialising what is sacred to many.
Unsurprisingly, the collection offended many Rastas so much so that they created an online forum to discuss their feelings of disgust by the collection and it's disrespect towards Rastafarianism. Many have complained that being a Rasta is a spiritual way of life, and therefore cannot be bought nor sold. Sista Kufunya who describes herself as a "born Rasta from creation" was so outraged she wrote a letter to Dior stating: "I am hurt by your total dis regard of my culture and millions of Rasta's who in the not so distant past where killed, ridiculed and discriminated because of it. Rasta is Not a Bikini- Rasta Not a Shoe- Rasta Not a Bra- Rasta Not depicted in a sexually way. Rasta Cannot be brought or sold!!!!"
Perhaps, this collection took it a little too far with the racy, hyper-sexualised images which completely oppose the values of Rastafarianism. Not so great Galliano, not so great.
2. Levi's Vintage Collection
Described by head designer Paul O'Neill as "a mix of classic American clothes with old man wear from Jamaica", Levi's® current Vintage clothing collection is a personal favourite which embraces the vibrant dancehall and reggae styles of Jamaica for it's Fall/Winter '18 collection. The inspiration for the collection stemmed directly from the Jamaican film Rockers (1978), after O'Neill's trip to Jamaica.
Contrary to most culturally inspired collections, Levi's® have received compliments rather than backlash for the accurate depiction and cultural awareness surrounding the campaign, as well as for the stunning campaign photos that feature the individuals he met on his trip.
If you're feeling the gear, you can currently buy the collection in-store and it will also be available online shortly.
More of the photography can be found here.
In Spring 2016 in line with NY Fashion Week, Tommy Hilfiger sent models down the runway wearing crocheted hats with red, gold, black, and green stripes surrounded by sand and water. The clearly Rastafari inspired collection was accompanied by a soundtrack which featured a remix of Jamaican icon, Bob Marley's 'Could You Be Loved'.
For some, Hilfiger's spring/summer collection was a little too controversial and seemed to appropriate more than appreciate. Although, the argument stands that he did feature some Jamaican models on the catwalk too. Zuri Marley (Bob Marley's granddaughter) was one of few people who gave appraisal to the collection and commented "most people pull the appropriation card but to the island girl, it seems like Hilfiger's Antillean inspiration is informed and honest. Besides, fashion is always taking cues from from different cultures, so Tommy isn't the first and won't be the last designer to highlight island life" - excerpt from Fashion Fridays: Zuri Marley Responds To Hilfiger's Jamaica- Inspired SS16 Collection.
Whether you agree with her viewpoint or not, one thing is for sure, she's certainly right about Tommy not being the first or last to be "inspired" by (or capitalise on) Jamaican fashion! So, the question is, which designer brand is next...
Appreciation or appropriation... You decide! Leave your thoughts below and tell the UY crew whether you're flattered or fed up of designers using Jamaican fashion as the focal point of their collections.