“The clothes were inspired by African motifs.” ~McCurry
To me the word inspiration is tied to respect. To be inspired by something is to love that thing so much, your love for it sparks a new creation. When you are inspired,you are awed by your muse, you want to learn more about your muse. Unless of course, your muse is Africa.
In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions.
He also goes on to explain the choice to shoot in Amboseli was based off of convince and aesthetics revealing that Amboseli had no role in inspiring the creation of the collection and was just a suitable after thought.
McCurry refers to Africa in a rather singular (and vague) way, he doesn’t need to specify which culture because he already said, Africa. And therefore does not need to expand. Because Africa is not a place with diverse cultures, industries, class systems, socio-political struggles and relatable beauty. Don’t be silly. Africa is that place slaves came from, home to the mysterious pyramids, land of safaris and starving children you can save for x-amount a month. Africa is more fantasy than reality. And her inhabitants are here to make that fantasy come to life, for McCurry it was as great looking ‘tall, thin, regal, majestic’ props for a fashion shoot.
Although there are exceptions; sometimes people in fashion are genuinely inspired by Africa, a recent example would be Zac Posen, who was inspired by Princess Elizabeth Bagaaya-Nyabongo of Toro. Unfortunately, specificity when it comes to Africa is rare, and as a result when the Leso inspires someone in the international fashion industry the significance of the Leso, even the name of the garment is unimportant so long as you make sure you say it is from/inspired by Africa.
This view of Africa is so deeply engraved in the world that sometimes even Africans buy into this generalized idea of Africa. Using the word ‘African’ not to unify us but dismiss us, water us down and make us easier to package and exploit. And it must stop.
So in short what I am trying to say is, fuck your African motifs McCurry.
Stay fashionable xoxo