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Jean Touitou, creative director and founder of French label A.P.C., presented his Fall/Winter 2015 collection in Paris on Saturday. Four of his looks, incorporating three unique cuts of a camel topcoat and one checked coat, sweatpants, and A.P.C.-designed Timbs , were the talk of the show. Why? Because he dubbed that section "Last Ni##@$ IN PARIS."
Nike Air Presto 5.0 Outlet Online, Considering that Touitou is a middle-aged Tunisian Frenchman, this didn't just make the audience uncomfortable, but has re-ignited a conversation that's been decades long with no end in sight: when and how can people use the N-word. And in this case—can it be used in a creative, commercial context?
That's the very question Style.com writer Luke Leitch posits in his review of the collection : " Can a brand ever use the N-word to sell clothes?"
Nike Air Presto 5.0 Outlet Online If you're wondering why Touitou used the taboo term, it's really got more to do with the inspirations. The title came about as a fusion between the 1972 erotic-drama Last Tango in Paris , and the Watch the Throne single " Ni**as in Paris ."
As Touitou put it, it's the sweet spot when the hood meets Bertolucci's movie Last Tango in Paris . " I made looks which are a cross-over of those two references: the Timberland shoes and the sweat pants are iconic of hip-hop, and the camel hair color coat, worn with nothing under it, is iconic of that precise movie," said the designer, according to Style.com.
Bertolucci's film was extremely controversial, earning X and NC-17 ratings due to sexual content, leading much of the film to be heavily edited before release in order to get an R-rating. Some countries like Portugal, South Korea, and Chile banned the film outright.
Even still, one has to wonder why Touitou used such strong language to get his point across. His belief is that the collection fuses the Parisian fashion culture with the American street culture. Mixing sweatpants with topcoats and straight-leg pants stacking over Timberland boots, the collection seems to be the high-low jetsetting wardrobe of someone who embodies the luxury rap lifestyle Kanye and Jay Z glorify in the Watch The Throne smash single.
Nike Air Presto 5.0 Outlet Online Maybe that's why West himself even gave Touitou a co-sign on the collection, and its controversial name.
Leitch's review noted that Touitou said: "I am friends with Kanye and he and I presented a joint collection at the same place, one year ago, and that this thing is only a homage to our friendship," The designer continued: "As a matter of fact, when I came up with this idea, I wrote to him, with the picture of the look and the name I was giving to it, and he wrote back immediately saying something like, 'I love this vibe.'"
Even if Touitou scored the mythical "hood pass" from Kanye, does he still have a right to borrow it from the culture so brazenly?
Nike Air Presto 5.0 Outlet Online THOSE NIGGAS WILL BE PLAYING IN PARIS JUNE 1&2 pic.twitter.com/W1u6srIr— jean touitou (@jeantouitou) January 24, 2012
The notion of "hood passes" is a thorny one. Look back to the controversy surrounding Gwyneth Paltrow following her use the word in a tweet at Paris concert where Jay and Kanye were singing the song of the same name. She was eviscerated on twitter for her usage of the word—primarily because the phrase "Ni**as in Paris" wasn't in quotes in the tweet.
Ni**as in paris for real @mrteriusnash (the dream) tyty, beehigh http://t.co/WL7TIDpG— Gwyneth Paltrow (@GwynethPaltrow) June 1, 2012
Unquestionably, Paltrow's referring to the song in this tweet, given the context. She's known to be friends with Jay Z, and The-Dream even took some of the blame by claiming he was involved in writing out the text of the tweet. Should someone like Paltrow be using the N-word? Absolutely not, but should she receive public hatred for mentioning the name of a song title that happens to have the word in it? That's hardly fair either.
Let's look at a non-racial word with a similar emotional weight: "bitch. Like the "N-word" for people of the black community, the word "bitch" receives similar flak from women's groups for being demeaning. Both "bitch" and "ni**a" are incredibly common terms used in hip-hop and black culture as a whole, but both are widely considered to be demeaning and insulting words by the public at large. However demeaning though, both words are accepted... in certain contexts.
As Kanye West noted in a series of now deleted tweets (saved from the ether by Gawker ):
" Is the word BITCH acceptable? To be more specific, is it acceptable for a man to call a woman a bitch even if it's endearing? Even typing it in question form it's still feels harsh? Has hip hop conditioned us to accept this word? Do we love this word as much as we love the word NIGGA in an endearing way? correction, Here's the age old question, would we refer to our mothers as bitches? Would' we call our fathers niggers or better yet NIGGAS? If nigga is such a positive word, why do we feel so uncomfortable for white people to say it, even with a hall pass? Is it ok to use bitch as long as we put BAD in front of it? Like you a BAD BITCH. Perhaps the words BITCH and NIGGA are now neither positive or negative. They are just potent and it depends on how the are used and by whom? #FREETHOUGHT."
Consider it Kanye's way. It's less about the word itself, and more about the context.
There's really nothing empowering about using a demeaning term of any stripe, and whether you're a black guy calling your homies " ni **a" or that hot girl in the club a "bad bitch," there's definitely better, more constructive words to use in their place. Rule of thumb: If you're unsure about how to use the "N-word," then generally avoid its use at all costs. There's nothing wrong with not sounding like an ignorant asshole.
In the context of Touitou's A.P.C. presentation, the use of the "N-word" is an attempt to pay homage to the culture. It's meant to portray a mash-up of two controversially progressive works. Even the Watch the Throne track alludes to its own salaciousness when it samples Will Ferrell's Blades of Glory character, Chazz Michael Michaels: “Nobody knows what it means, but it’s provocative,” says his character, to which Jon Heder's foil, Jimmy MacElroy ,replies: "No, it's not, it's gross!" Michaels ends the sample with a universal truth about not just the word, but the song: "It gets the people going!"
Touitou's remarks certainly got the people going. Style.com's Luke Leitch admitted the collection was full of "tasteful menswear" but " stretched the boundaries of appropriateness." Touitou even described the connotations of the Timberland 6-inch boot as "ghetto."
"The Timberland here is a very strong ghetto signifier. In the ghetto, it is all the Timberlands, all the big chain. Not at the same time—never; it's bad taste. So we designed Timberlands with Timberland…" said Touitou in the Style.com review.
The Timberland boot is a big part of hip-hop's sartorial and cultural influence, and the shoes also featured prominently in Kanye West's A.P.C. presentation last season . Touitou's version aligns with A.P.C.'s DNA of austerity, going with a monotone wheat and black color for both versions, but the price point and materials will likely skew more luxury than utilitarian.
Going deeper and placing this entire controversy into a fashion context, you end up with a more complex issue. One of fashion's biggest inspirations today is streetwear—obviously Touitou used this connection when collaborating with Kanye or reworking the current collection's Timberlands.
This is the current exchange of high-low and low-high culture—especially in fashion. If we're allowing designer brands like A.P.C. to incorporate, borrow, and be inspired by streetwear and black culture, then can anyone tell those designers what they can use and (more importantly) what they can't? Considering the "N-word" is as much a part of hip-hop as a pair of 6 inch wheats, then letting designers draw from that genre means they deserve to right use every part of that culture—the good and the bad.
It's just up to the individual designer what they decide to do with that freedom.
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