"Summer of Love" Style Shoot Explores Cultural Appreciation

If you've ever been to a music festival or seen "fashion footage" from them, you may have noticed a whole lot of questionable clothing choices.

Despite popular websites like Vice and Buzzfeed tackling the issue of cultural appropriation, a lot of people still seem to have no problem wearing the garb from oppressed cultures outside of their own as a fashion statement. 

Inspired by Vice's interview with random white people wearing dashikis, bindis, cornrows, and headdresses at Coachilla, dapperQ contributor and Trinidadian producer Cee Sando did a photoshoot with POC designers and a POC crew to demonstrate what it looks like when cultural traditions are respectfully appreciated in fashion.

Vest custom piece by Neko, earrings & bracelet Burkinabae, shirt stylists own

Vest custom piece by Neko, earrings & bracelet Burkinabae, shirt stylists own

Vest custom piece by Neko, earrings Burkinabae, shirt stylists own

Vest custom piece by Neko, earrings Burkinabae, shirt stylists own

Necklace & bracelet Burkinabae, shawl & bodysuit stylists own

Necklace & bracelet Burkinabae, shawl & bodysuit stylists own

Vest custom piece by Neko, earrings & bracelet Burkinabae, shirt stylists own

Vest custom piece by Neko, earrings & bracelet Burkinabae, shirt stylists own

Earrings & ring Burkinabae, shawl stylists own

Earrings & ring Burkinabae, shawl stylists own

Earrings & bracelets Burkinabae, scarf & shawl stylists own

Earrings & bracelets Burkinabae, scarf & shawl stylists own

We followed up with Cee to learn more about the project and their take on cultural appropriation vs. appreciation. 

What is your cultural background?
I am from the Caribbean- Trinidad to be exact, with Antiguan, Irish, Dominican roots. 

What cultural styles are you exploring in this photoshoot?
I mixed in Caribbean flavors with frican and Japanese (via the gorgeous peices created by Burkinabae designer Karen Emilienne Chatelain) as well as the melting pot that makes up LA's hippie/ earthy/ skateboard culture

How do you see this photoshoot as a pushback to all the culturally insensitive fashion you've seen at music festivals?
While it may seem like a fine line, the key to respectful representation vs. highly offensive appropriation is inclusion. Answering the question who is telling their story via what is on your body is key. 

Purchasing and wearing "thni" looking clothing from big box stores is not the same as proudly displaying a piece you acquired from a talented seamstress in the local marketplace while vacationing abroad. The team for the photoshoot- model, stylist, photographer even designers are all incredibly talented people of color. I choose this team to bring attention in some small way to those historically ignored in mainstream fashion. 

What message are you hoping for people to take away from these images?
I am hoping that people will give consideration to where trends originate. Mainstream fashion is very good at using prints, silhouettes, styles from other cultures; yet e still have an issue with minorities being represented t all levels- from models, and photographers to designers, fashion editors and stylists.

Collections are inspired by countries and continents then resented with absolutely no involvement of any of the people the looks are taken from. This must change and I hope this shoot will inspire others to continue that work. 

CREDITS
Photographer: Genna Sandler
Wardrobe Stylist: Cee Sando
MUAH: Cee Sando
BTS Photographer: Claudia Villeda
Model: Hope Steinman-Iacullo
Custom apparel: Neko
Accessories: Burkinabae Accessories

Check out behind the scenes photos at ceesando.com!

As Qwear's Founding Editor, Sonny’s work centers around envisioning a future in which the clothing people wear does not dictate their chances of survival. Sonny was awarded 2015 dapperQ of the Year and was the first trans blogger to be sponsored by Topman. In March 2016, Sonny spoke at South by South West's first official queer fashion panel.