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By Sakshi Patil


This controversy began a week ago when a fashion account and company on TikTok, named Bibty, posted a video featuring a team member commenting on a so-called new trend of covering dresses or outfits with a sheer shawl. They claimed this trend to be “European” and “Scandinavian,” exhibiting an overarching ignorance and Eurocentric perspective on fashion. This video has sparked significant backlash from the South Asian community, as it epitomizes the issue of a white person generalizing and overshadowing cultures that are often marginalized, by presenting their traditional practices as new Western trends.



The ignorant nature of this video sparked a strong and visceral reaction from the TikTok community, particularly from the South Asian community and beyond. This reaction was multifaceted, reflecting both a fierce defense of cultural identity and a broader critique of underlying societal issues.


Members of the South Asian community took to TikTok to vociferously defend their culture, bringing to light the deeper-rooted issues of microaggressions and the demeaning of other cultures' fashion and textiles. These microaggressions, often manifested in casual dismissals or appropriations of cultural elements, were called out for perpetuating stereotypes and fostering a lack of respect for cultural diversity.


The response from the South Asian community was diverse and creative, manifesting in numerous TikTok videos. A significant portion of these videos was educational and aimed at enlightening viewers about the significance of South Asian clothing, textiles, and traditions. Creators explained the historical and cultural importance of these elements, thereby fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation among the broader audience. These educational videos opened up crucial conversations about cultural sensitivity, respect, and the importance of preserving and honoring cultural heritage.


In addition to educational content, some creators chose to use humor and satire as a means of response. These videos often mimicked the woman's voice from the original audio while showcasing South Asian clothing. By doing so, they not only highlighted the absurdity and ignorance of the original video's content but also showcased the beauty and diversity of South Asian fashion playfully. This blend of critique and cultural pride served to both entertain and educate viewers, making the message more relatable and impactful.


Furthermore, the widespread reaction to TikTok illustrated the power of social media as a platform for cultural expression and advocacy. It demonstrated how marginalized communities can use digital spaces to amplify their voices, challenge stereotypes, and educate others about their culture. The South Asian community's response to this video is a testament to their resilience and the importance of standing up against cultural insensitivity and appropriation.


In conclusion, the reaction to the video was not just about defending cultural fashion and textiles but also about addressing broader issues of respect, understanding, and equality. The South Asian community's response highlighted the need for greater cultural awareness and sensitivity, urging everyone to appreciate and honor the rich tapestry of cultures that make up our world.


While acknowledging that South Asian clothing, such as saris and lehengas have been adapted into Western fashion, sometimes being simplified or stylized in ways that detach them from their cultural origins and significance. Exemplified above. It must be seen that this is not the only culture that is often adapted and appropriated by Western cultures.


Traditional African prints like Ankara and Kente have been incorporated into Western fashion. While this has brought visibility to African designs, it often overlooks the cultural significance and the artisans behind these textiles.


Ankara, a fabric deeply cherished by West Africans and intricately woven into our culture has been appropriated by the renowned Western brand Stella McCartney. They showcased it on the runway, in 2018 Paris for their Spring/Summer Collections, labeling it as "innovative," without giving proper recognition to the heritage, significance, and pride this fabric holds for millions of West Africans who wear it daily.


Another significant controversy was when French women's wear brand Isabel Marant faced accusations of cultural appropriation from a small community of Mexican women in Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec. They noticed a striking resemblance between the brand’s 2015 Etoile Collection and their traditional costume.


The women considered legal action against Isabel Marant for a blouse design they saw as a symbol of their identity. Despite the brand's claim that the design was original, the blouse had significant cultural importance and had transcended borders. Furthermore, the brand sold the blouse for £200 (4500 Mexican pesos), while the traditional version cost only £11 (300 Mexican pesos).


Remarkably, this incident led the community to propose a solution to combat cultural appropriation in fashion. They invited Isabel Marant to visit them, learn about their community, and meet the artisans who created the blouse. They offered something crucial: transparency. Ultimately, what many small designers and communities seek is recognition and respect for their culture and creativity.


It is believed that this may be just the tip of the iceberg. The continuous rebranding of ethnic cultures and their fashion into more Westernized ideas or concepts is merely brushing the surface of much deeper colonial and racial issues that Western culture often fails to comprehend. The profound ignorance and lack of education about other cultures in Western countries must be addressed to prevent future outrages.


Edited By: Ayantika Ghosh

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