Rising tide of political correctness is a 'dangerous' threat to creativity, Marc Jacobs warns

Camilla Turner
Marc Jacobs was accused of “cultural appropriation” after he cast predominantly white models to wear dreadlocks - Copyright (c) 2016 Rex Features. No use without permission.

A rising tide of political correctness is a “dangerous” threat to creativity, one of the world’s leading fashion designers has warned.

Marc Jacobs launched a stinging attack on those who attempt to stifle expression, adding that he does not understand their mindset.

Addressing students at the Oxford Union, he said: “I think it's very dangerous to say: ‘You can't use this, you can't look at that, you can’t borrow from that, you can't be inspired by that’.

“You know, ‘stay in your own lane’. I don't really understand that mentality and I think it's a very dangerous way of thinking.”

Critics questioned why the 54-year-old designer decided not to cast more black models for his show Credit:  Swan Gallet/WWD/REX/Shutterstock

Jacobs told an audience of around 400 students that creative people should not be subjected to “border control” on what they can and cannot do, on the grounds of political correctness.

Last year, Jacobs, who is the head designer for his own fashion label, was accused of “cultural appropriation” after he cast predominantly white models to wear dreadlocks in his New York fashion show.

Critics questioned why the 54-year-old designer decided not to cast more black models for his show, since he was using a hairstyle associated with black culture.

Jacobs said that when designing the colourful dreadlocks for his fashion show, he drew inspiration from a range of influences including rave culture and Boy George.

Boy George

“I didn't feel like I was doing anything wrong. I was expressing myself - these were my references and my reasons for being inspired to do it,” he said.

“I wasn't saying that this was the origin of dreadlocks, and yet it caused this whole thing.” He added that he learned a “valuable lesson” from the debacle, which provoked an angry backlash on social media.

“What I did learn from that experience is to have some responsibility to be sensitive, especially when people say ‘this feels like appropriation’, then at least listen to what they have to say.

“Because I reacted out of anger, I felt attacked for doing something that I thought was my right to do. I do feel that creative people shouldn't have any kind of border control on what it's okay to look at, what it's okay to be inspired by, so I stand by that.”

Edward Enninful Credit:  Richard Young/REX/Shutterstock

Jacobs was speaking at the Oxford Union alongside Edward Enninful, who is the first black and first male editor of British Vogue in the publication’s 100 year history.

Enninful told students that he has no problem with appropriation, so long as the original culture is given credit. “If someone appropriates something, as long as they give credit where it's from and give the history of where it's from, I'm completely fine with it,” he said. “If you are going to appropriate, just credit the original.”

Universities have been at centre of a string of “cultural appropriation” rows in recent years.

Protests from Cambridge University students caused an Around the World in 80 Days-themed party to be cancelled. They complained that the theme could even be seen as racist if revellers dress up in clothes from a different ethnic group.

The musical Aida was cancelled at Bristol University after a revolt by students who feared that white students would be cast as leads and expected to portray Ancient Egyptians and slaves.

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