Monday, April 27, 2015

Re: Trend talk: Chloe Nour x Uniformed

I was distressed to see in the latest Asos newsletter a white woman wearing an oriental style shirt. It is not a traditional cheongsam, as it is symmetrical but given it's motifs, button closures and collars it is blatantly obvious what it is trying to emulate. Or rather, what culture it is trying to incite and exploit. I'm half Asian and like many this has always made me feel a little impure in my identity but it is genuinely irritating when the same girls who made me feel subordinate then steal something and appropriate that culture. More than that, I am sick and tired of these festival trend reports and images of girls at Coachella beamed across Instagram glorifying something which is unconscionable.

"Hey all, in your latest Trend Talk for Australian customers you feature Chloe Nour, a girl who's not mixed or ethnically Chinese wearing a shirt in the style of a cheongsam. While I acknowledge that what she is wearing is not a traditional item of clothing I do find it upsetting as someone who is biracial that you seem to urge your online community to engage in cultural appropriation and something which is exploitative. You don't identify what she is wearing, and indeed seem to side-step the issue entirely, but the fact that these photos have still come to light is unsettling. 

I ask that you consider  taking these images down, or re-shooting with Chloe Nour in order to maintain that interview and content for readers. Or at the very least do not allow such content to come to light in future. While I do not take any issue with someone who does represent that culture wearing a particular item of clothing (i.e. a Desi women wearing a bindi for example), it is increasingly common that consumers are exploiting culture and religion for commerce. I like many other young woman are alarmed by the practice, and consciously avoid those who do not address it in all its insidious forms. I look forward to reading your response."

edit: here's the response I got:

Hello Adele,
Thanks for getting in touch.
Please be rest assured we didn't mean to cause any offence, and thank you for your feedback.

I've now passed this to the relevant team to look into, as we take situations like this very seriously here at ASOS - I'll be back in touch ASAP. In the meantime, I hope you have a lovely day, and if you have any questions, please let me know – I’ll be happy to help.
Best wishes, Lucy"

The original article has since been removed


  1. I don't know what's worse: not, at the very least, correctly identifying the culture and crediting it justly so or acting like there aren't a plethora of Asian girls to model this. Actually, that's not even a problem but a subsequent microagression. I'm really glad you wrote them that. Cultural appropriation of any and all forms is so maddening.

    1. thanks Khensani, you also brought up a really good point about who they chose for this Trend Talk and a lack of representation despite there being many Asian artists, filmmakers and models who would be perfect for this!

  2. Good for you for directly calling out their appropriation. Cultural appropriation is a widely complicated issue, I think, because while there might be instances where it is acceptable to wear a traditional outfit of a culture other than your own (ex: sometimes it is a requirement when attending formal events, or even something more casual such as taking part in class where you learn how to put on a kimono), most of the time it is inappropriate, ignorant, and often highly disrespectful (ex: the appropriation of Native American headdresses).

    A lot of the time, on the individual level, appropriation can be avoided just by using a little critical thought and perspective. For example, because I'm part Italian, whenever I see someone appropriating the clothing of another culture, I imagine them wearing traditional Italian clothing (which isn't typically appropriated as "cool" clothing), to highlight their ignorance within my own frame of reference, if that makes sense. I know this is kind of problematic in itself, especially since Italians have never been the victims of racism to anywhere near the same extent as people of other cultures (and racism is, after all, the root of appropriation), but at a very basic level it's just another way of pointing out the utter stupidity of appropriation. Like, hey white girl you think you're so cool with your bindi well all I see is a kerchief and apron.

    1. Hi Erin, while you're right in identifying it is sometimes required to wear traditional attire to a formal event, in that case it is sharing in a culture. Unfortunately wearing these clothes because they make you look "cool" or up your indie cred is cultural appropriation. All it takes is a little though and consideration but yeah, I guess someone here wasn't thinking.

      On a personal level I understand what you're saying about Italian clothing but am so glad you recognize a difference (where others may not). We see less of traditional European clothes and more from South East Asia in cult. appropriation because these clothes are more exotic~~ which is really part of the problem.

  3. Hey! Have you seen Amandla Stenberg's recent video on cultural appropriation? You might find it interesting :) xoxo

    1. I had seen the video referenced numerous times but just finished watching it for the first time myself,
      Amandla explains everything so clearly about her culture without being confrontational, which I think is what causes people to become defensive when they are called out on it. Thanks for pointing out this video to me and others, it's really worth watching!

  4. Well done for speaking out! We need more people to do this. Hopefully a change for the better will come from it :)