Found whilst going through my bookmarked links, I don’t recall how I came about Pikolinos and Olivia Palermo collaboration egregiously and lazily titled ‘Maasai Project’, but after reading through the website’s description and looking at the horribly styled safari and animal print lookbook featuring Palermo and Kikanae Ole Pere (or “William as he is known in the western world" - their words not mine), a Maasai community leader, I am sorry I ever stumbled upon this sight.
Pikolinos, a global shoe brand based in Spain, has employed Palermo as their ambassador for their Maasai Project - a sustainable fashion initiative that has tasked itself with improving the lives of Maasai people. A project that they claim has ‘sowed the seed of hope in the heart of Africa’.
Yes, because before there were white Europeans, hopelessness and despair was the order of the day in deep dark Africa and we were incapable of living fruitful and rewarding lives. Oh and, here’s some news: Kenya is the ‘heart of Africa’ (who the hell comes up with these ridiculous labels?!).
Aside from white saviourism, Pikolinos doesn’t give much reason for their particular interest in Maasai people and culture. However, foreigners and fashion brands seem to have a particular obsession with Maasai and Samburu aesthetics - from J. Crew and Louis Vuitton, to Emilio Pucci and Thakoon, so this is really nothing new. Then there are campaigns such as these that just don’t make sense on any level.
False claims of empowerment are instead rebranded with neo-colonialist imagery and statements that completely strip away any agency from the Maasai people.
This is not a stab at sustainable fashion but rather at the type of rhetoric and imagery that mars efforts that might otherwise be a step in a more positive direction.
It’s clear that not everyone’s read or heard of Binyavanga Wainaina’s ‘How Not to Write About Africa’.