Olympic Games' tortured relationship with fashion won't change in Vancouver
Raising eyebrows: The taste level of Russian ice dancers Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin is being questioned.
By Robin Givhan
It's one of those questions that comes up with frequency in the fashion industry where designers believe they have the creative license to borrow freely from everyone and anything. The list of cultures that have been ransacked in the name of style is long and includes African American, Jewish, Indian, Caribbean, Native American, Middle Eastern, African and so on. No one is off-limits. Occasionally, designers have been inspired to glorious effect. Almost a decade ago, Jean Paul Gaultier debuted a ready-to-wear collection in Paris that was a pastiche of African and black American style. His models looked glorious and noble. And the clothes, in velvet and jewel tones, were breathtaking.
Gaultier's wisdom was in using the specific cultures as merely his starting point; his creative process took flight from there. He wove an elaborate and enticing fantasy out of reality. He created something wholly new that was, itself, worth celebrating. In contrast, the ice dancers' costumes attempt to re-create something that they simply cannot. Cultural markers are etched out over generations. They can't be stitched up in a few hours. These costumes don't embellish on reality; they don't transform it. The unitards, with their ridiculous greenery, are like cheap, lazy Halloween costumes without the plastic mask.
Below: "Raising eyebrows: The taste level of Russian ice dancers Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin is being questioned." (Ivan Sekretarev/associated Press)