A Turkish fashion designer has raised eyebrows in Paris after his latest collection featured symbols and patters inspired by Aboriginal art and history.
Fashion commentators have accused Istanbul-based Bunyamin Aydin, of Les Benjamins, of cultural appropriation after his latest range featured luxury sportswear adorned with dot paintings, geckos and “1788” – the year of European colonisation of Australia.
A model wearing a design from the Les Benjamins spring/summer 2018 collection. Photo: Les Benjamins
In a social media post featuring a look from the collection, Aydin said he had created a range that was “streetwear meets Aboriginal culture”.
“I was highly curious about Asia Pacific and wanted to discover the history of Australia and New Zealand … Aboriginals, Islanders, and Maori people are the natives and their cultures, traditions and rituals are rich in culture. I take on the challenge to translate it to today by applying it on modern shapes and oversized silhouettes,” Aydin said in an interview about the collection with Pause magazine.
Les Benjamins has been accused of misappropriating Aboriginal symbols. Photo: Les Benjamins
But critics of the collection, which Aydin showed in Paris on Friday, said the designer’s use of cultural symbols had crossed the line.
“Aydin always tries to bring an international focal point to his streetwear concepts, and this season he focused on Australia and New Zealand … Unfortunately, this area was inevitably going to be dicey, considering the colonialist persecutions by the latter of the former, and the still existent sensitivities toward relations.
“Tribal-inspired face paint, for example, was unnecessary. As were painted visages on tops. This was too overt, and while unintentional, Aydin could’ve gone in a quieter vein to honour his inspiration – which he did, with some otherwise solidly good clothes,” Nick Remsin wrote for Vogue.
A model wearing a Les Benjamins design. Photo: Les Benjamins
Fairfax Media has contacted Les Benjamins for comment.
Last month, Chanel was forced to apologise after a $ 2000 boomerang carrying its logos caused widespread offence on social media.
At the time, Queensland University of Technology intellectual property expert Dr Matthew Rimmer said examples such as these highlighted the need for stronger laws to protect Indigenous intellectual property both in Australia and overseas.
Models in the Les Benjamin designs, which are inspired by Aboriginal art. Photo: Les Benjamins
The United Nations via its World Intellectual Property Organisation is reportedly working on legislation to make cultural appropriation an international offence. The calls from groups representing Indigenous cultures in the US have in part responded to clothing businesses such as Urban Outfitters selling underwear printed with Navajo symbols.
Last year, the retailer and the Navajo Nation reached a settlement over the inappropriate use of the tribal name.
A model wears a Les Benjamins design that includes a reference to the year 1788, which marked European settlement in Australia. Photo: Les Benjamins