Thursday, September 21, 2023

Junya Watanabe’s African-Inspired Showcased Accused of Cultural Appropriation

As we reported here, Japanese designer Junya Watanabe’s Spring/Summer’16 menswear showcase hit Paris Fashion Week with furore – the garments featured revealing a cool collaboration with Nigeria-based Dutchwax brand, Vlisco.

And, while some have applauded Mr Watanabe’s ankara-patched shirts and jeans, worn with Masai neckpieces and beads – like we did (it made our top 10 list of shows from Paris, here), others have slammed the showcase, disappointed by the lack of black models on the catwalk.


As usual, Twitter was a hotbed of reaction, with users posting their opinions on the show;


Though the accessories came from a Parisian boutique that specialises in African artefacts and the styling of models’ hair in particular (dreads, braids) are unmistakably inspired by the heritage of the continent, the same can not (without tangle and debate) be said for the fabric used in the showcase, with Vlisco being the manufacturer of prints that originally came from the East Indies (now Indonesia), which have been popular with West Africans in particular since the 19th century.

Talk of the showcase possibly being a comment on colonisation also add something to stir the pot, but without a word from the designer himself, there’s little to do but debate the intentions behind the showcase, its message and the reasoning behind the lack of diversity on its runway – which is starkly different from its predecessor, the Autumn/Winter’15 showcase that was inspired by Congolese Sapeurs and saw many black and African models on the ramp.


We at SPICE will look out for (and update here) any official comment from the designer, but meanwhile, do share your thoughts on Junya Watanabe’s Spring/Summer’16 showcase with us below in the comments box, or online @SPICETVAFRICA – we want to know if you think this is a case of cultural appropriation and how you really feel about race of the models featured.

Image source: @Twitter,,


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