How top global fashion brands are appropriating Afghan culture – no credit

When Anna Wintour showed up at a star-studded event celebrating the 130th anniversary of vogue magazine earlier this month, she wore a jacket from designer Joseph Altuzarra’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection draped over her shoulders.

For most fashion watchers, the coat was another example of Wintour championing designers from their earliest days. As a 2011 recipient of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award and someone whose work has appeared at multiple Met Galas, Altuzarra certainly fits that bill.

For Afghan fashionistas, however, Wintour had committed the ultimate fashion faux pas, giving his coveted endorsement to a design they see as Altuzarra’s uncredited appropriation of traditional eastern Afghan designs.

Safia, a surnamed Afghan-American style influencer and assistant designer, says the influence was not only obvious, but yet another example of fashion’s penchant for years to take on Afghan styles without properly crediting their origins. .

Over the years, she says, major brands and designers ranging from Isabel Marant to Celine, Christian Dior, Gucci, Etro and Saint Laurent have been guilty of using Afghan motifs in their work.

Since 2018 she has documented many of these cases for her 30,000 Instagram followers on the @bestdressedafghan account, but says she has now lost count of how many times she has seen this happen.

“I can’t believe how much Afghan culture has contributed and continues to contribute to fashion, but without any credit or representation,” Safia said. The National. She says big, multi-million and billion-dollar brands often pass off Afghan-inspired designs using euphemisms like “southwestern style,” “boho,” and “Jimi Hendrix.”

Safia says it’s not just designers who are to blame, but also leading fashion journalists and editors such as Wintour, who “have no idea about cultures outside of their own bubbles, so they write letters of love to these creators season after season”.

She says that in 2022, when so many labels have been criticized for appropriation, the fashion media should “take some time away from their favored platforms and do a little research to see that most of what they praise are mere replicas of the creations of other cultures”. And these are often cultures that are often not well represented in the hallowed halls of high fashion.

Marina Khan, Afghan designer and founder of clothing and accessories brand Avizeh, who lives in Dubai, agrees with Safia. She says Altuzarra not only failed to credit the people of Nuristan, the Afghan province that her designs seem to be inspired by, but vaguely called them “desert-inspired.”

Like Safia, Khan believes fashion has embraced Afghan designs while ignoring the artisans behind them. She says the euphemisms used to describe pieces that are clearly Afghan-inspired fail to “celebrate and acknowledge the local women of the region.”

“It’s completely unfair.”

So what is the solution ? Khan says these brands could simply employ and empower Afghan artisans and traders, acknowledging their contribution to the global fashion scene.

“If we focus on actual Afghan design techniques, it’s clear the quality is unmatched, the detail immaculate.”

Western versions are often an inferior interpretation of age-old techniques, she says.

“Afghan designs are only considered fashionable when a celebrity wears them or a fashion brand has somehow renovated the design.” And that’s only if they’re recognized as Afghan designs in the first place.

Safia says there have been examples of major houses rightly attributing Afghan inspiration to their work, citing John Galliano’s 1985 debut collection, “Afghanistan Repudiates Western Ideals”.

Safia and Khan say using the name of the country in the collection is enough to go from outright appropriation to artistic inspiration.

“For me, inspiration is when you love, respect and honor a culture and include people from that culture in your vision as a designer,” says Safia.

Appropriation is something else entirely, she says, equating it with “day-to-day theft of someone else’s cultural heritage…brands that don’t have an iota of shame steal again and again.” a marginalized group without ever giving anything back”.

The two women say they want non-Afghans to enjoy all forms of Afghan culture, but it must be done with recognition and respect, or in the case of brands like Altuzarra, at least some credit. to the origins of design.

“My problem is only with brands that continue to profit from our designs while failing to educate their customers about their roots.”

Scroll through the gallery below to see the work of Afghan fashion designers

Updated: September 23, 2022, 6:02 p.m.

Comments are closed.