IS BORROWING DESIGNS FROM OTHER CULTURES THEFT?

UO dress x traditional Ethiopian dress

A dress sold at Urban Outfitters triggered a complex discussion regarding cultural appropriation in the fashion industry. Journalist Lolla Mohammed Nur started the discussion with an open letter hoping to raise awareness about the issue. 

Lolla Mohammed Nur explains on her open letter: Urban Outfitter's "Vintage Linen '90 Dress" is actually not vintage and it is not linen. This is literally a design and fabric taken out from Ethiopian and Eritrean culture, which we call "zuriya" (in Tigrinya) or "hager lebs" (in Amharic). From the design of the waistline, sleeves, fabric, to the thick stripe of colored fabric at the hem, this is exactly what zuriya and hager lebs look like.

Yesterday, The Stream dedicated an episode to debate this issue. Among the participants were: 
Johanna Blakley, from the Norman Lear Center at University of Southern California; Korto Momolu
Fashion designer; Lolla Mohammed Nur, Journalist. 

Watch the full episode:






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