Fashion Designer Carolina Herrera Accused Of Cultural Appropriation | Clozette

The concept of cultural appropriation is always difficult to discuss. Unlike racism or sexism, which are often blatant and done with obvious malice, an offence that results from the act of cultural appropriation frequently sparks a debate rather than a straightforward verdict. With the exception of overt inappropriate practices such as wearing a traditional national dress as a costume and doing a heavy foreign accent while doing so, most instances of cultural appropriation are subtle and can feel ambiguous for most. 

In the fashion industry, the discourse is louder than ever. Many labels have been called out for and accused of cultural appropriation, but the sentiment is never unanimous. It's always an issue of whether someone is just taking inspiration from another culture or is simply stealing and disrespecting its collective identity. The latest label to be on the hot seat is the house of Carolina Herrera. 

Their Resort 2020 collection, made by newly minted Creative Director Wes Gordon, feature several designs carrying motifs that are said to directly stem from the Mexican culture. Admittedly, the brand has said that the collection is indeed a "tribute to the richness of Mexican culture". But the government of Mexico doesn't see it that way and has accused the fashion house of inappropriate usage of indigenous Mexican patterns and designs. 

In a letter addressed to the fashion house (originally published by Spanish publication El País), the Cultural Director of Mexico cited the white dress with the "brightly coloured animal embroideries that intertwine with flowers and branches," which she said is from the "community of Tenango de Doria," as one of the examples of cultural appropriation that's apparent in the collection. As of now, the house of Carolina Herrera has yet to release a statement on what reparations or additional actions would be done in response to the Mexican government's accusation. 

We all know that this is not the first time that a fashion label was called out for cultural appropriation. From the infamous Marc Jacobs dreadlocks controversy in his Spring/Summer 2017 show to Gucci's Turban piece, the industry is littered with insensitive practices. Despite this, the debate on whether using elements from another culture can be considered stealing or be passed as homage is still alive.

In a creative industry where you need to churn out new ideas every season, it can't really be avoided to take inspiration from other cultures — especially in the digital age. But designers shouldn't just take inspiration or 'pay tribute'  to a culture, they should also include members of the culture they're taking inspiration from as part of the conversation.  

(Cover photo from: @wesgordon)



Our Friday is looking lit! In today's Insider Roundup, we spill the deets on Japan's MOS Burger chain coming to Manila, a cult-fave eyebrow product adding new shades to their range, celebs reconciling over cookies and more. Make sure you scroll until the end so you don't miss anything.

Japan's MOS Burger is coming to Manila

Manila is looking like a hot spot for international fast food franchises this year, with Shake Shack's recent arrival and In-N-Out mounting a pop-up stall recently. Following their footsteps is Japan's MOS Burger, which is the second largest fast food chain in the Land of the Rising Sun just after McDonald's. Looking to officially open their doors to the Filipinos in March 2020, we're already looking out for their famed rice burgers that made waves on the internet a couple of years back.

Benefit Precisely My Brow releases four more shades

Earning fame for its easy-to-use ultra-fine tip that allows for precise and natural strokes, this pick favoured by many Benebabes also boasts 12 hours of budge-proof wear. Previously offered in eight shades in a range of browns, the Benefit Precisely My Brow Pencil now adds four more colours to its lineup. It's now the largest brow collection in the industry. Say hello to 2.5 (a neutral blonde), 2.75 (warm auburn), 3.75 (warm medium brown), and the unique Cool Grey, which is a versatile colour that can be used by people with naturally grey or white hair.

Is this the hottest — and weirdest — trend this summer? 

As if our list of weird trends isn't already overflowing, another one grabs the spotlight. Say hello to the Towelkini. That's right! Why bring a bikini and a towel to the beach when you can have both in just one item? It's getting mixed opinions online and in mainstream media, but the only question that matters to us is your answer to the question "Would you wear it?"

Taylor Swift and Katy Perry end longtime feud with... baked goods? 

After their five-year feud over backup dancers, a back-and-forth of shady songs, and just a whole lot of drama, it looks like things have been patched up between T. Swift and Katy Perry. Earlier this week, Katy posted a photo of cookies with the words 'peace at last' while tagging Taylor in her caption. Tay-tay responded with 13 beating hearts in the comments, showing us that all is indeed well. Is it too early to ask for a collab? 



Our “I Am Her” series features the female movers and shakers of the industry to learn how femininity and power coincide beautifully and seamlessly together.

Kaye Morales made waves back in late 2015 with her Spring/Summer 2016 collection, “Rebel.” With her chic and edgy pieces, she caught people’s attention perhaps not just because of the collection but also because she came out about her sexual identity through the show. With her bold statement, she served as an inspiration for those in the LGBTQ+ community still seeking acceptance.

In an interview with her back in 2016, Kaye Morales opened up about her beginnings. We learned about how she started her career in fashion, as well as her plans to change the local fashion industry one collection at a time. This month, we catch up with her to see how things have changed since. Read on to find out how her designs evolved with her identity. 

Filipino fashion designer Kaye Morales poses for the camera

Kaye Morales

Fill in the blank: I’m a fashion designer and a ____________.

I’m a fashion designer, athlete, and an LGBT advocate.

It’s been a while since you launched your “Rebel” collection. How have things changed since? 

After “Rebel”, I got featured in a lot of magazines and on TV, probably because I was the first designer who came out as a lesbian during a fashion show. Now, aside from designing, I’ve also become a part-owner of Nectar, an LGBT bar in BGC. Every Thursday, I hold "Girl Nation", kind of a girls’ night out event, where girls and lesbians can have a homespace where they hang out and have fun.

Your identity and sexuality played a huge part in the creation of your pieces for “Rebel”. Does this still remain true for your more recent collections?

Yeah, I always make sure that my collections still show my identity as a designer. I always make sure that they have this androgynous aesthetic. I love mixing and matching pieces, have male models wear oversized shirts paired with skirts. During my shows, I also make it a point that my models are diverse — they’re a mix of straight, lesbian, gay, and trans people. 

Your brand is known for pushing the boundaries of the local fashion industry. Where do you get your ideas when designing your pieces?

When I do my designs, the first thing I do is travel. I escape and kind of get a “restart” by going to the beach. When I’m there, that’s when I start my sketching. I usually get my inspiration from my life story — from my past and present. My collections are all connected. You can see their continuity in the elements. For example, from black, the pieces gradually become red, and then colourful. These progressions are a representation of my emotions.

You’ve also dabbled in bridal wear, which is a bit different from your other collections. How was the experience? Will we see another bridal collection from you again soon?

I do streetwear, but I also do bridal wear, especially because a lot of clients approach me for it. I’m just not advertising it enough on social media because it might confuse people, but I join wedding exhibits. Weddings are like my backbone, it’s where I express my romantic side.  It can be quite challenging because it’s so different from streetwear, but I enjoy it because it pushes my imagination.

What do you want your brand to be remembered for?

I think I’m the only lesbian fashion designer, but aside from that, I also want to be known as someone who also creates menswear. I want my brand to be known for my androgynous and oversized pieces, something strong, edgy, and fierce for different types of genders.

Which collection are you most proud of?

Maybe my latest one, "Rebirth", because it’s like my rebirth as a person and as a designer. From my very first collection, this one really evolved in terms of colours, in silhouettes, and in its wearability. With this one, I mixed in avant garde with streetwear so it’s like wearable art. It’s also very personal for me because it’s the story of my life and shows my freedom as a designer.

Can you give us your best style tip?

Don’t be scared to express your individuality as a person. It’s very important to show your character through dressing up. When you’re brave, you stand out and your uniqueness shows. Just mix and match and be free.

Do you have a message for members of the LGBT community still struggling with acceptance?

I know it’s hard to come out and be accepted. For now, if ever you plan on coming out, take time and think it through. It’s difficult coming out to your family and friends, but it’s also really important to educate them about your identity as well. Always check your mental health. If you think it’s being affected, find an outlet. Just don’t be scared to express who you are, because there’s nothing wrong if you’re gay or lesbian — we’re all created equal.

Share with us your five Clozette essentials. 

My phone, face powder, lipstick, blush, and oversized polos.

What's next for Kaye Morales?

I’m already working on a new collection for a show in Manila Fashion Fest this October. I’m also releasing my swimwear and beachwear collection soon. It’s going to be called "Gypsy Nomad", featuring edgy and regional prints. The line made specifically for athletes will be available in Siargao and Manila. 

The interview was edited for brevity and clarity.