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October 26, 2009


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There's lots of people (myself included) that are troubled by the use of terms such as 'oriental' which sweep together a huge mass of culturally diverse peoples and traditions into one catch-all word. Other offenders are 'tribal' and 'ethnic,' all terms that regularly appear in fashion-speak and are so broadly defined they are virtually meaningless. It speaks of white 'western' privilege (not to mention ignorance and insensitivity) and is immensely patronising and dismissive.

But I'm a Galliano fan, and he's always picked and mixed his influences with breathtaking impunity. And I love how you have analysed this bodice - detailing the various elements so clearly.

Perhaps the decision to name this bodice 'Nagasaki' - a place synonymous with mass annihilation and therefore emotionally loaded - was insensitive. But who knows what Galliano's intentions were. It might have been a sincere tribute or gesture of sympathy?

Galliano might have overstepped the mark (oops sorry!) last year with his shoes that featured heels shaped like Masai fertility symbols. Susan Scafidi does a great job on them here:


Also, the blog Sociological Images has covered fashion's blithe insensitivity to cultures outside the Euro-American zones of privilege. I'll just pick two posts as examples:



I look forward to a future where Chinese, African and Polynesian (or wherever) fashion designers will treat Euro-American cultures and traditions with the same lack of respect, and sell them back to us!

FIDM Museum

Fantastic comment and links, Sarah, thank you.


We've lost a lot by having a Western world culture that dresses in jeans and t-shirts. Having people dress in the traditional national clothing of each country would make the world a lot brighter :-)

Ruth Leavitt

I find this supremely insensitive to call it "Nagasaki" from an American designer. Perhaps you could get away with that by itself, or the "Oriental" slip, but both together, without input from a Japanese stylist in the creation and... well... My first thought upon reading the "Unruly" look and "Explosion" of colour made me wonder if we would accept such description were an ethnic German to design a dress based on ashes and gas and call it "Dachau".
I suspect not. I couldn't even breath for a couple minutes after reading that I was so horrified.

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