When Marc Jacobs sent models — most of whom were white and many of whom were very famous — down the runway in candy-colored faux-dreadlocks inspired by pal Lana Wachowski for his S/S ’17 collection, accusations of cultural appropriation were leveled almost immediately. The backlash was swift and fierce, and Jacobs did not exactly respond to the criticism elegantly.
“All who cry ‘cultural appropriation’ or whatever nonsense about any race or skin color wearing their hair in any particular style or manner — funny how you don’t criticize women of color for straightening their hair,” he wrote on Instagram in the midst of the uproar. “I respect and am inspired by people and how they look. I don’t see color or race — I see people. I’m sorry to read that so many people are so narrow-minded … Love is the answer. Appreciation of all and inspiration from anywhere is a beautiful thing. Think about it.”
Jacobs, perhaps at the behest of his PR team, backtracked on the statement (kind of) a few days later, penning another Instagram post that read: “I thank you for expressing your feelings. I apologize for the lack of sensitivity initially expressed by my brevity. I wholeheartedly believe in freedom of speech and freedom to express oneself through art, clothes, words, hair, music…EVERYTHING. Of course I do see color but I DO NOT discriminate. THAT IS A FACT!” So, yeah, less defensive than the first statement, but not exactly the heartfelt apology many were hoping for. Though it would appear Jacobs has changed his tune since last September.
In the September issue of InStyle, the designer admits “maybe I’ve been insensitive.” The magazine put together a shoot lensed by Hype Williams featuring Jacobs’s hip-hop inspired collection, titled “Respect”, worn by the likes of Biz Markie, Kurtis Blow, LL Cool J, and Salt-N-Pepa, all of whom Jacobs credits as inspiration. And while Jacobs has made a very successful career riffing on sub-cultures ranging from grunge to the club scene, it seems he’s taken some time to become a little more woke about how to do so respectfully in the year 2017.
“What I learned from that whole thing, what caused me to pause after it died down a little bit, was that maybe I just don’t have the language for this, or maybe I’ve been insensitive because I operate so inside my little bubble of fashion,” he told writer Eric Wilson.
Admitting when you’re wrong isn’t easy, especially when the entire fashion world and half of the internet are watching. And, sure, his statement has an uncomfortable amount of “maybe’s” in it (just say you’ve been insensitive! Just say it!) But it’s nice to see a designer as big as Jacobs seem to actually consider criticism and address it thoughtfully — even if it is a year late.