Cultural appropriation is like showing up to a sushi party in a sombrero and a Native American headdress, It’s like borrowing someone’s unique dance moves and claiming them as your own on TikTok. It’s basically taking bits and pieces of someone else’s culture without truly understanding or respecting its significance. It’s a bit like that, confusing, cringeworthy, and definitely not cool.
Out of all the things we’re losing these days (my mind comes first), the fashion industry is one to get lost in cultural translation and the latest scoop on this topic is Israeli fashion designer Dodo Bar Or’s clothing line being removed from luxury shopping platforms this week, following an Instagram video that she shared drawing a comparison between Hamas and Isis (which has also been removed from Instagram, luckily). But that’s not all for Dodo Bar Or, the designer who first found fame as an actress in Israel before turning to fashion, has previously designed garments with the Palestinian Keffiyeh pattern which have been accused of being ‘cultural appropriation’.
Scores: 0 for appreciation and a 100 for cultural appropriation.
The problem with the world is that it tends to forget, but I’m here to remind you. Remember when Nigerian-born designer Mowalola Ogunlesi raised eyebrows for her use of national flags, including those of Republic of China and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the focal point of mini skirts for SS24? Remember when Victoria’s Secret were accused of cultural appropriation for their use of Native American headdresses? Remember when Urban Outfitters were criticized for selling products that appropriated symbols and designs from various cultures, including Navajo and Hindu? Now tell me, remember when Zara faced backlash for producing clothing items that resembled traditional Jewish clothing and for using indigenous designs without permission? Dodo Bar Or probably remembers this one… or not, Timing is everything, isn’t it? It’s like the world’s notorious for forgetting the past (although it’s not so distant) or simply zipping its lips at the most inappropriate moments. Take Cult Gaia, for instance, remember when everyone put them in time-out for their anti-Palestine Instagram fiasco in 2021? Well, surprise, surprise! They’re back on the shelves like nothing ever happened. Can you smell the selective amnesia in the air?
What do we learn today? Terms that went missing this year in the fashion industry, BOUNDARIES, LIMITS & RESPECT, and it’s crucial to uphold these values, especially during sensitive political times like these because what if I tell you, you can actually rock anything in fashion without stepping on anyone’s toes? When brands go on a culture-crazed borrowing spree for marketing, it’s like playing with fire in a dynamite store! There’s a fine line between giving a respectful homage and straight-up careless cultural heist. When designers skip the permission from diverse cultures, they end up feeding into silly stereotypes and giving diversity the cold shoulder. Trust me, the fashion police and Anna-lyse won’t be pleased.
Before diving into a new cultural vibe, do your homework, embrace the beauty of diversity, learn the stories behind the styles, and respect their origins. This further underscores the crucial role that designers play in honouring diverse cultures. Fashion has the power to ignite positive transformations, magnifying the beauty and honouring the deep heritage of our varied customs.