Whether it be the crystals that were left on the seats of showgoers at Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s The Row runway show last season, the geode-adorned Crocs that Christopher Kane showed for S/S 2018, the crystal-composed rollers that beauty influencers have been hawking, or the quartz-inspired fragrances that Kim Kardashian released not too long ago, wellness and healing crystals, in particular, continue to take the fashion and beauty industries by storm. And Sephora is not immune to the budding trend, as indicated by in its recently-revealed “Starter Witch Kit.”
Far from just an easy sell for new-age beauty lovers (which is likely what Sephora intended), the LVMH-owned beauty retailer is facing backlash, as individuals who identify with the pagan religion of Wicca, are calling foul on Sephora’s attempt to market a product consisting of a rose quartz crystal, fragrances, sage, and tarot cards.
More than merely upsetting social media users, Sephora is specifically being called out for cultural appropriation, with Pagan practitioners alleging that the beauty giant is turning their religion “into a trendy overpriced aesthetic.” Sephora is “definitely guilty of culture appropriation,” Indigo, who practices witchcraft, told Metro.co.uk. “I don’t think they’re doing it to spread awareness about the craft, they’re doing it just for profit in my opinion.”
Siera who identifies with Pagan Witchcraft, told the publication, “Witchcraft isn’t something you just throw around, people put their entire being into this way of life and work so hard at it. I’ve been made fun of way too much for being a witch for it to just become another trend.” Still yet, another pagan practitioner said, “Witchcraft is a sacred and personal religion, not something to turn pastel and profit off of.”
As Metro’s Faima Bakar aptly notes, the Sephora-specific “backlash opened up an important discussions,” namely, brands routine practice of culturally appropriating other existing religions and cultures.
Still yet, others are angered by the inclusion of white sage in the kit, a sacred plant for many southwestern indigenous peoples.,
Cultural appropriation – or the adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society – has been a frequent topic of conversation in the fashion and beauty industries in recent years, as brands have become embroiled in faux pas after faux pas, whether it be the co-opting of distinctive elements of the Maasai people for collections from Louis Vuitton and DVF or the Sikh-like turbans that Gucci showed in February, or its initially uncredited take on Dapper Dan's famous wares.
Before that, Victoria’s Secret put model Karlie Kloss on the runway at its annual fashion show in Native American-inspired lingerie, while Marc Jacobs styled his mostly white runway models in rainbow colored dreadlocks for his Spring/Summer 2017 show. There are countless other examples like this, and a larger discussion about the industry’s penchant for looking to the culturally significant items of others and calling them “inspiration,” while simultaneously rendering those culturally significant elements into seasonal fashion trends.
Such cultural appropriation-as-design inspiration – which extends to the use of cultural and religious traditions, fashion (including prints and patterns), symbols, language, and songs in ways that does not celebrate the underlying culture – has become something of a norm in the fashion industry.
In attempting to grapple with this recurring pattern, many have asked where the line between inspiration or appreciation and appropriation lies, and Dr. Royce Mahawatte, a Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies at Central St Martins, says it is hardly as simple as that. “Rather than drawing a line,” he says, “we can look at the innovation that young designers, image makers and fashion writers, many of whom are non-white are bringing to the scene.”
As for the Sephora debacle, Pinrose, the company behind the witch kits, released a statement this week, saying: “First and foremost, to those who have shared their disappointment or taken offense to this product, we apologize profoundly. This was not our intent. We thank you for communicating with us and expressing your feelings. We hear you; we will not be manufacturing or making this product available for sale."
It further noted, "Our intention for the product was to create something that celebrates wellness, personal ceremony, and intention setting with a focus on using fragrance as a beauty ritual.”