Cultural Theft on the Runways: How High-Fashion Brand Moschino Exploited India's Indigenous Artisans

 

Over the years, we’ve come to appreciate top fashion designers for their expression. Because of their intricate designs, progressive ambassadors, and aggressive marketing campaigns, letters as simple as the double G and LV have become examples of stamps that we idolize. However, as consumers we often forget to question the inspiration behind the content that leading brands expose to the public. 

In 2017, Moschino debuted its resort show that was sported by figures including Mirranda Kerr and Vanessa Hudgens. The designer, Jeremy Scott, claimed that the collection was a reflection of the “psychedelic prints of the 90’s and the hippie lifestyle”. While someone foreign to Indian culture may have believed that, as Indian raised Americans, our team at Hut Mentality instantly recognized that this was not the full story...

 

Moschino Jeremy Scott hut mentality  

Jeremy Scott cultural appropriation

Jeremy Scott Hut Mentality cultural appropriation

 

 Anyone who takes a deeper look into the design behind this specific collection will see parallels to the work produced by artisans of the Rabari tribe (and others) in Gujarat, India:

Rabari Artisans India artisans ethical hut mentality

 The mirror work, the shapes, the stitching, the color, the patterns – each of these elements was quite literally a copy of the work that originated in India. Unfortunately, this form of cultural appropriation is common in today’s world of fast fashion and we have seen countless other examples like this that are carefully covered up. This practice of designers drawing false sources of inspiration in order to elevate their own creativity isn’t the worst part. They are using these cultures they haven’t experienced to make fashion statements. To profit. To grow their following. To acquire fame and notoriety as “cutting edge”. And in the process, designers such as Jeremy Scott get away with targeting vulnerable people’s work to use as their own, in this case, the art and tradition of India’s Rabari artisans.  

Rabari Kutchi hut mentality ethical fair trade sustainable fashion

 

This is where Hut Mentality draws the line.

We first pride ourselves on being socially conscious and second on our clothing brand that is sourced by indigenous and rural artisans from India. We take these vibrant textiles and convert them to western standards in an effort to celebrate, share, and wear parts of our Indian culture in our everyday American lifestyle. Through our yearly visits to India and our Founder, Isha Punja’s trip to remote villages, we have a special understanding of the effort, labor, and demands put on artisans to maintain their livelihoods. Through our brand, we strive to use fashion to bring light to these often forgotten communities – something that is rarely done in the modern world. 

 All of us are encouraged to brainstorm, educate, and draw sources of inspiration when it comes to our creations. But from a young age, we are taught to give credit where credit is due  — whether it’s citing our sources as the end of a research paper or referencing an artist for music used during a video. Why then, do we hesitate to “cite our sources” when it comes from people that are less known?

Afterall, referencing your inspiration doesn’t make your interpretation any less valuable. 

 

 

- Written by Suhitha Kosuri (Head of Operations - Hut Mentality)  

Profile photo of Suhitha Kosuri

 

 




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