How does Louis Vuitton Imagine Fashion?

September 2, 2011

For the Imagine Africa project, the Penn Museum wants to know how you imagine different aspects of African cultures and societies, from religion to art to medicine.

One particularly interesting theme is Imagine Fashion, which, as its name suggests, explores the sartorial trends, bodily modifications and adornments of African cultures. Perhaps one of the last things that will come to mind when asked how you Imagine Fashion in Africa is Louis Vuitton. However, after taking a look at the fashion house’s Spring/Summer 2012 collection, you may have different thoughts:

Compare the collection to the clothing worn by these Maasai elders at the end of this short video on Maasai Rites of Change.

This video interview with the New York Times delves into Louis Vuitton designer Kim Jones’ background and how he was inspired to use these Maasai prints in his collection. What do you think? How do Jones’ use and interpretation of traditional Maasai textiles stack up to the real thing? Is it appropriate for a luxury Western brand to capitalize on the pairing of traditional fabrics of a culture with the fashions of their imperialist oppressors? Is this, on some level, fetishization or objectification of the Maasai culture? Should contemporary fashion in such cosmopolitan societies even be analyzed so critically these days? Some thoughts for consideration.