Gyspset/boho/gyspy subculture is rife with appropriation and cultural insensitivity. I love the beautiful clothes and lush imagery but I’m often left feeling uncomfortable when I consider the broader implications of the bohemian aesthetic. Camilla Franks’ latest campaign for her new collection Jambo Jambo evokes many uncomfortable associations.
Franks describes the ultimate ‘Camilla girl’, “she doesn’t discriminate with location, she is just constantly travelling around the world and she’s kind of like a bower bird she picks up all her travels and wears them all at once..” (Rescu). This sets of alarm bells, as does this quote ‘ “….I soar with warriors in some kind of wild, desert elegance. Adorned like a desert queen, the dust flies as I join my new tribes in ritual movement. I am free. I am finally me..” ‘ (Grice 2016).
Camilla/David Jones advertisement for Vogue Australia
The double page advertisement features two women, one light skinned and one dark skinned wearing strikingly patterned clothing jumping into the air. Both women wear neck pieces -one wears a large silver neckpiece, the other woman wears a red one. The lighter skinned woman dominates the visual space compared to the other woman. Her outfit consists of more fabric, her hair is brighter and bigger, her jewellery is larger. Even her posture takes up more space, her arm is outstretched and she is jumping higher in the air; it appears as though she is pushing the other woman to the edge of the page. On the next page, she appears wearing a head dress and carrying a staff, sitting on what could be a throne, in a posture that suggests she is looking out over territory.
Even without being familiar of the writing of Said and Spivak etc , one can easily read this advertisement as a European claiming dominance over an “other”. When one considers the history of the colonisation of the African continent, this image provokes all the wrong connotations. Allwood (2015) writes that ‘ ..vaguely pinning down a collection’s inspiration as “Africa” with words such as “tribal”,”primitive”, “wild” ….reduces an entire continent …into a few archaic and racist stereotypes. …. to borrow …from “tribal” Africa ignores the fact that, just a couple of hundred years ago, we were responsible for the destruction of those cultures, languages and people.’
More cultural cringe via Camilla.com.au
Grice (2016) admits that appropriation of culture often happens but doesn’t believe Franks is guilty of the crime. I disagree. Cultural appropriation is when ‘…the subject culture is a minority culture or somehow subordinate in social, political, economic or military status to the appropriating culture’ (Unsettling America 2011).
I don’t believe that Franks has any malice in using her trip as inspiration for Jambo Jambo. After watching and reading her interviews I thought she seemed to want to impart positivity into the world. However as a ‘world collector’ she might need to consider the broader social and historical issues.
Allwood, Emma Hope 2015, ‘Why it’s time fashion ditched its ‘tribal’ inspirations’, Dazed, viewed 15 August 2016, <http://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/26900/1>.
‘Camila Franks talks about ‘Gypset’ SS2012-13 Collection’, Rescu, viewed 15 August 2016, <https://youtu.be/BmOFAKxbLh0>.
Camilla.com.au, viewed 14 August 2016, <www.camilla.com.au>.
‘Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation’, Unsettling America, viewed 15 August 2016, <www.unsettlingamerica.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/cultural-appreciation-or-cultural-appropriation/>.
Grice, Ryan 2016, ‘Camilla unveils Jambo, Jambo!’, scenstr, viewed 15 August 2016, <http://scenstr.com.au/fashion/camilla-unveils-jambo-jambo>.
Vouge Australia, September 2016, pp.72-73.