African art at Paris Fashion Week Fall 2015

Maison Valentino Paris Fashion week 2015 African masks

The above ‘wall of masks’ was on view in Paris last week at Maison Valentino’s spring 2016 show – spectacular as it may be, these masks unfortunately are all fake, but maybe not so unfortunate since they were all painted black anyhow. The Valentino fashion show received a lot of negative comments because of its embarrassing cultural appropriation and stereotype ideas of African fashion. The African-inspired collection (the continent of Africa is a pretty big and diverse place to seek inspiration from as a whole btw) included raffia, feathers, studding, bone necklaces and bracelets, Kente cloth and much embroidery, fringing and embellishment whilst the show was soundtracked to the beat of the bongo drum. Valentino’s show notes said the “primitive…spiritual, yet regal” collection was inspired by “wild, tribal Africa“, and that it was a “journey to the beginning of time and the essential of primitive nature“. Add in handbags affixed with miniature masks (see below) and safari prints and you’re crossing the line between appreciation and appropriation. Valentino, as the show notes indicate, wanted to represent Africa “as vibrant, as throbbing, as imperfect purity“. Very cringeworthy if you ask me, especially since it is 2015. Read more about the controversy here, and about others misuses of African designs by the fashion industry here.

maison valentino african masks handbag 2015