More than likely you’ve stumbled across the hoodie “Ghetto Until Proven Fashionable” that was created by Nareasha Willis, an activist, designer, and entrepreneur. This hoodie was created as a social statement to sum up Willis’ feelings on culture appropriation.
As Willis said in an interview, “When Black people are expressive in the way they dress, we are constantly classified as ghetto. We are restricted in corporate offices from wearing locks, cornrows and even Afros. However, when European designers use these looks on non-Black models, it is then praised for being “chic” or fashionable. The issue of cultural appropriation isn’t about dictating who can wear what, but when you insult people and then profit from it, we then have an issue.”
This “issue” of cultural appropriation has been occurring for years, and most recently, it happened again, this time in the form of a company selling bonnets and claiming that they created the whole concept behind the product.
In an article with Fashion Magazine, entrepreneur Sarah Marantz Lindenberg claims she “came up with the idea” of a “washable silk head wrap” that prevents breakouts and preserve hairstyles.
“My concept came out of a problem that needed solving,” explained Marantz, who founded the company, NiteCap.
The problem with this statement is that her “concept” isn’t revolutionary; billions of Black consumers have been wearing bonnets for generations.
The problem also isn’t with the fact that Marantz created a bonnet product (it’s a free country); the BIGGER issue is that in creating the product, she failed to recognize the historical context and much larger cultural significance behind bonnets.
The bonnet has been a Black beauty staple for function and fashion for years, and has deep cultural origins in the Black community.
Sadly, Marantz isn’t alone. Too often, many brands and companies do the exact same thing; they make a profit from cultural appropriation and overtime, the historical context gets slowly removed and ignored.
For this reason and many more is why Black entrepreneurship and buying power matters more than ever.
Black consumers spend over $1.2 trillion dollars per year on products, and more Black men and women are creating new small businesses and startups each day.
It’s critical that we are the innovators and the consumers behind the products and services we love, and that are important to our history.
By doing so, we can control the narrative and the way we, and our culture are being represented.