Sindhi Ajrak is culturally significant to the people of Sindh because it represents their history and legacy. An American clothing brand, Urban Outfitters seems to have drawn inspiration from this traditional fabric to feature in their summer line.
Go on, let out the gasps of haw haye.
Ajrak is a popular block printed shawl, produced in Sindh for the most part but adorned by Balochis all the same.
The cotton shawl in blue, red, black, yellow and green is a symbol of respect and tradition, infused with the Sindhi culture. Hand-made Ajrak can take up to a few days, with the coming together of carvers, dyers and skill. It is often used for turbans, scarves, tablecloth or bed linen.
And Urban Outfitters isn’t the only one. Forever 21 has also been using similar patterns under the guise of “Baroque” print, borrowing from Morocco.
— Kulsoom Ali Syed (@kasyed) May 23, 2015
Could this be a case of cultural appropriation?
A little introspection into “Baroque print” led to similar oriental motifs and somewhat neoclassical patterns but the color palette and alternating colors were vastly missing.
This can definitely be dubbed as an episode of eastern inspiration that is usually taken with a pinch of salt. However, some might find the use of Ajrak to weave a bikini top slightly distasteful. With bohemian and indie fashion on the rise, one can expect more of this in the future. After all, we, too, are guilty of bringing western gowns in mainstream Pakistani fashion scene.
But not crediting the origin and disrespecting the local sentiments is a little problematic.
Bina Shah, a renowned Pakistani writer and columnist states,
“Ajraks are our pride and our heritage. They mark us symbolically as people from the land of Sindh, a beautiful province of peace and tolerance. An ajrak is a cloth of honor for honorable people. You don’t take someone’s honor and do THIS to it. How many times will Western companies take something from us and turn it into a crass moneymaking travesty?”
I would like the record to show that Pakistani fashion industry is also guilty of similar crimes.
This is what some people had to say about this alleged case of “plagiarism”:
— Hasan Shahzad (@hasanshahzad) August 2, 2016
Moroccan print?? Oh hello.. It's ajrak pic.twitter.com/BLkB4dYr0X
— Talking Ginger (@BerhaPaar) August 1, 2016
— Bina Shah (@BinaShah) August 1, 2016
Do you think this is yet another case of cultural appropriation by the West or is it legitimate for fashion to transcend borders?
Let us know in the comments below.