Here’s a story from Yahoo! Finance about Victoria Secret using a Native American headdress on a model for their annual fashion show. To me, this story is intriguing because it demonstrates the amazing reach of imagery that designers have in the use of symbolism and how it can often be taken for granted. Despite the amazing reach, there is the responsibility of mining the cultural significance of such imagery and symbolism.
Despite the whimsy, and the knowledge that much of what the models wear in the show is not really intended for actual production or sale, the ignorant use of imagery within even one design has the ability to give the most unintended ramifications. It is perhaps too simplistic to think that one can simply dial up pages on the internet and unearth the cultural moirés of such a design element ahead of time, but while we live in an age of immediacy we also live in an age of design specificity.
It’s that specificity which can inform the story of a work. … And such work isn’t always done in the hour they give on an episode of America’s Top Model. One hopes that the development of a fashion show affords the designers more time than that. Because design is best done when the symbolism is fully understood to enhance the aesthetic, instead of trivializing, and worse yet, lampooning it.
In the Yahoo! article, a columnist for a Native American website, Ruth Hopkins, expounds on the design “… war bonnets are exclusively worn by men, with each feather symbolizing an act of valor.”