304 S. Broadway, Los Angeles
Visvim was founded by Hiroki Nakamura, a former designer for Burton.
The brand has several locations in Japan and is primarily carried by other stockists in the States.
They produce design forward clothing mixing together traditional Japanese, streetstyle, and Americana aesthetics.
It is artist designed, craftsman made, expensive, and cool.
I asked the person working there if she knew anything about the lining of this Kiyari Jacket.
She replied that it is an original work by the designer.
I asked if she knew anything about the events depicted in the art and she replied that she believes it is historically inspired but wasn’t sure.
Now I’m a little uncomfortable.
The most common source of this sort of art were Native American prisoners of war in the 1870s. With access to paper, via things like ledger books, and time, many of these captives recorded historical events, battles and individual exploits. The drawings were perhaps a little more storytelling than artwork, which adds an extra level to my disappointment that the salesperson didn’t know the story.
It made me wonder if the designer knows the stories.
Appropriation isn’t really a difficult thing to suss out in a strictly American context, with our well established exploitative power dynamics and history, but it becomes a bit more complex when the person doing a “thing” that isn’t their own, isn’t American and doesn’t carry the same baggage.
So I have questions more than I have conclusions or statements.
3 thoughts on “VISVIM: I like it but I have questions”
I’ve been on the fence about cultural appropriation for a while now. I’m not sure why the lining to the jacket would have a Native American motif (and a pretty poor one at that) when the designer appears not to be of NA decent. However, we may be jumping to an unwarranted conclusion not knowing his true ancestry. This raises a potential dilemma. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that his great grandmother was a Hopi which would make the designer 1/8 th NA. Would it still be cultural appropriation? Where would you draw the line if we go back five or 10 generations? If we turn to acting, should only deaf actors play a deaf role? Those who are deaf have their own culture including their own language, ASL. The same might be said of Black actors playing white people in Hamilton.
I’m not going to chastise Lin-Manuel Miranda for CA. Neither will I condemn the designer of the lining pictograph except to say it’s just not something I’d want to buy because it’s so poorly done.
As I said before, I’m unsure of where I stand on CA. The best I can do is go on a case-by-case basis and not be offended by those who sometimes cross the line.
So a couple things…
First, like I said, I mostly have questions on this one, as opposed to having a stance or a statement.
Second, we do know the designer’s identity, he is Japanese. Also- that lining isn’t poorly done. It is specifically done.
It is a pretty good recreation of a very distinct and specific style, enough so that my initial question to the employee was whether or not it was a reproduction of a historical artifact or event. The fact that the American flags are upside down makes me think it is not, and that the designer was making an informed decision… but the person selling the garment didn’t appear to know any of this, which is where the bulk of the problem lies.
One way appropriation happens, is when a person outside of one culture takes something, normally without some sort of “permission”, from another, and uses it differently than its original purpose in a way that disrespects its original creator.
In the case of Hamilton, because of the historical, and lingering power differential between Black and white, the casting of Black character’s isn’t appropriation but rather it is an intentional co-opting to make a statement. Lin Manuel knew what he was doing, did it intentionally, and with a purpose.
Defining art is a little like defining beauty; it’s all in the eye of the beholder. For my untrained eye, those “Native American” drawings aren’t appealing to me. But let’s move on to a review of Hamilton I found in The Harvard Crimson. To reiterate; I don’t consider Hamilton to be cultural appropriation. In fact, it’s one of my favorite musicals. But there are some cultural appropriation warriors who, for me, cross the line. You can judge for yourself. Follow the link.