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I have been receiving criticism on my designs and artwork since I picked up a paint brush and needle. I usually brush all of this off and move on. Today I received an email from a woman who shared my above swimsuit on Facebook and was told that she was supporting cultural appropriation, Columbusing, exploitation, and I believe the word (racism) was mentioned. She ended up agreeing with the critics. I have been told this design was dis-tasteful, and sacrilegious, but being accused of being exploitative and a possible racist is very new to me. I understand that as my little clothing brand grows that this is how it is, but I wanted to address it here for two reasons:

1. I would like a response from me as the designer to be out floating around in the internet should this become a “thing” that is said about my work.

2. I would like other emerging designers to feel embolden to create without fear of doing something subversive if it speaks to them…

Remember when Gautier did the runway with a Punk Rock Hasidic Jewish theme?

It was also suggested my prices were too high….

Below is my response to her email that I would like to share with all of you:

As the owner and designer of a women’s clothing line that’s roots are based in subversive subcultures surrounding women and pop culture, I would normally not answer an email like this. I would normally give you a “Thanks for the input” response, because it’s always been clear that my work is not for everyone and fully accept that, particularly with the Guadalupe suit (and skirt for that matter). It’s a hot button for some. That being said I feel passionate about this feedback because it is not a reflection of my work or who I am as an artist. Rather it is an accusation masked as “helpful concern” and I would like to set the record straight in case you find yourself reposting any other of my garments and getting the same response from your Facebook “friends”.

The thing about Facebook is that it’s an absolutely divine place to applaud and accuse without knowing much about the person behind the image, quote, or post. Here at CandyStrike we are thouroughly aware of this and know it’s just a part of the community we are involved in. Here’s what your “friends” don’t know about myself and CandyStrike. The Guadalupe swimsuit was created in 2010 in a collection called Mala Muchacha which was dedicated to all the badass latina’s in my ghettos growing up. I have been selling it here in my cultural melting pot, Tucson, AZ since then. It is insanely popular here and most of my customers purchasing this swimsuit are of Mexican or Latin decent because it speaks particularly to a low-rider subculture here in the South West. The image of the Virgin is all over the south west and has been used in so many ways it would make your head spin. It is iconic for the artists and fashion designers out here. It is in fact engrained in our culture and my own upbringing here in Arizona. The t-shirt that is redesigned to create this swimsuit is made in Mexico. I have found that people are less offend or willing to accuse me of exploiting a culture when it is on man’s chest as a t-shirt rather than a midsection or bottom of a woman’s dress or swimsuit. I find this telling.

I am a woman of color and from a biracial family. I am an advocate for the latin community here in the south west (as well as many other communities). I am also one of the few indie designers out there that has a range of women’s sizes in small- 4XL for each garment, with a soul purpose of tearing apart sizing and cultural divisions between women. I love my city and it’s culture. I think it’s important that your “friends” understand that perhaps before accusations of exploitation and “Columbusing” get thrown around on the internet, that you take the time to get to know the artist behind the work and their intentions. I also understand that it is an offensive image to some , but for me and my customers it means something so much more. It is joyus and fierce and powerful. I am not in the business of pleasing everyone and I will never be. I will not appologize for my work- I am a designer, but I am sorry if it is very, truly, upsetting to your “friends”.

Also, 75.00 for a custom, entirely handmade, independently designed swimsuit, with unique fabrics is completely under-priced. I don’t manufacture, I don’t work with sweat shops. Please keep that in mind when evalutating my designs.

I appreciate you bringing this to me and will be including it in a blog post so that others may understand my full intent with my designs.

Please take care,

Designer & Owner