When news broke earlier this week that Gwyneth Paltrow, our country's premier tone deaf peddler of aspirational and indulgent home goods, was shilling "hip-hop inspired" luxury clutches with rap legends' names emblazoned on them for just under $1,700 on her lifestyle site, Goop, no one was really surprised. People were offended, naturally, what with it being another obvious example of the white and privileged poaching black culture, but no one was quite shocked.
Paltrow's history of race relations includes bragging about her friendship with The Carters (as in Jay Z and Beyoncé) and showing off her affection for '90s hip-hop; you may have seen her on a night-time talk show, spitting some bars, or dropping the n-word in a tweet. As she explained to Jigga Man, her affection for hip hop giants like NWA arose from a fascination with "lyrics as rhythm and how Dre had a such different cadence and perspective from say, Eazy-E, who I thought was one of the most ironic and brilliant voices hip-hop has ever had." Apparently it was a happy "accident" she learned every word of Straight Outta Compton what with her Upper East Side upbringing keeping her from fully engaging the album's context (that's fair) and her parents "literally could not grasp" what Ice Cube was saying (Blythe Danner seems like she's lying about that one).
Whatever the case, Gwyneth sees hip hop more as an art form. So hence the luxury lucite Edie Parker bags — bags from a brand I personally like. Nominated for a CFDA Award last year, Parker has made a name with her vintage-inspired acrylic clutches, with Hollywood starlets and the fashion world flocking to accessorize with the often cheeky purses. Personalized with expressions like "Namaste" and "MRS" ironically scrawled in courtly script, the bags push back on the the 1950s and 1960s ideas of femininity from which the style derived. Which is perhaps why Paltrow enlisted Parker in the first place: these bags are nothing but ironic.
By creating exorbitantly priced clutches as homages to TuPac, Biggie Smalls, and Jay Z, Paltrow and Parker together use camp — a quality fashion loves — to demonstrate a moneyed, white Hollywood actress' "accidental" love for a genre dominated by black men who come from very humble beginnings. The dainty shape and flowery script of the bag removes a the bite and grit that hip-hop generally exudes. In this way the style could be subversive. No, but really.
If Beyoncé was caught trotting out of her New York office building, holding a "Hov" clutch between her freshly manicured talons or Jada Pinkett Smith took to a red carpet with a "Pac" version as an homage to her late, great friend, then we would have a statement on our hands. And if Mariah Carey was seen tipping around Vegas with a "Shady" (as in Slim) bag under her arm, or Lil' Kim out to dinner with a "Biggie" pouch, it would be subversion at its finest.
With this design, Paltrow may have been trying to manifest such a novel fashion moment. But you could also argue that Paltrow's need to prove her allegiance to hip-hop — and her dubious street cred — renders that intent void. Then her bag manifests as a "thirst trap," which proves both her proximity to hip-hop giants and her cluelessness towards the genre's origins and intent. And shit, we haven't even delved into the $1,700 price tag or the make-up of Goop's readership to which these styles are targeted.
The issue is complex: we, as a culture, are past the reductive argument that white people can't be fans of hip hop. Gwyneth can get turnt as reasonably as she can; Blythe, too. But Gwyneth needs to understand that an alignment with black culture is not ornamentation; her relationship with Bey's husband is literally not an accessory.
Marjon Carlos is a style and culture writer for Fusion who boasts a strong turtleneck game and opinions on the subjects of fashion, gender, race, pop culture, and men's footwear.