Blackface sweaters and pizza with chopsticks: Problem cases and strategies for converting cultural appropriation into cultural appreciation in the fashion industry

Domenique Jones, Doctoral Candidate and Michelle Childs, Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee

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Abstract: The fashion industry has been criticised for its practices of cultural appropriation and disregard for the cultures of Black, indigenous and other people of colour. In an age of instant criticism promulgated through social media, viral condemnation is becoming increasingly powerful. As Western cultures focus on the importance of cultural appreciation, including issues centred on equity, diversity and inclusion, it is vitally important to address marginalised groups correctly. This paper therefore proposes a shift toward respectful cultural appreciation, paying homage and giving credit to original cultures. Based on a review of popular culture and academic literature, the paper highlights issues relating to cultural appreciation in fashion and presents opportunities for fashion and acting against cultural appropriation. The study also discusses specific examples of cultural appropriation (ie taking pieces of another culture and portraying them as one’s own) and cultural appreciation (ie respectfully paying tribute to and highlighting the beauty of another culture through marketing and fashion). These examples have practical application for businesses seeking to avoid potential consumer backlash and become leaders in the fashion industry.


Keywords: cultural appropriation, cultural appreciation, fashion, marketing, diversity, racism


Domenique Jones is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Tennessee. Her research interests include feminism, objectification and appearance management for marginalised consumers. She is passionate about highlighting structural issues and inequalities for oppressed individuals throughout the fashion and retail sectors. She has an MS from the University of North Texas


Michelle L. Childs is an assistant professor in the Department of Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Tennessee. Her research interests focus on understanding changing needs within the retail and fashion industry and its impact on brand image, brand growth and consumer responses. Research conducted by Dr Childs has been published in Journal of Product and Brand Management, Journal of Brand Strategy, Journal of International Consumer Marketing, International Marketing Review and Business Ethics: A European Review. She has a PhD from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro


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