Why is this New York fashion brand selling ajrak designs as 'brick multi'?

Why is this New York fashion brand selling ajrak designs as 'brick multi'?

Owners of the brand say they're inspired by French style but won't give due credit to Sindh for the ajrak print
06 Apr, 2019

You'd think in 2019, people would understand that stealing designs from a culture and dubbing them something else is just plain wrong but no. It's happened again.

New York-based fashion brand Sea is selling a top they like to call 'Ezri Sleeveless Top' and they've described its colour as 'Brick Multi' but if you ask us, it looks quite different from said brick multi. It looks like something else...

Sea appears to have taken the ajrak-printed fabric, a prominent symbol of Sindhi culture, and simply chosen not to acknowledge its origins. Also, they're selling the top for a whopping Rs47,090 - at the moment on a discounted price of Rs18,414. Yikes.

The brand, owned by Monica Paolini and Sean Monahan, is said to be "inspired by the polished effortlessness of the French." Looks like they have no problems honouring their inspirations, so why was the rightful Sindhi credit given a miss?

This is just one of many instances where ethnic designs have been copied and replicated in the West and sold for exorbitant prices. English menswear designer Sir Paul Smith found himself in hot waters in 2014 when he replicated Peshawari chappals and sold them as a design of his own (he called them 'Robert') for a whopping £300. More recently, Christian Louboutin gave his own spin to the Peshawari chappals and dubbed them 'Imran sandals'. Again, no credit was given to where the shoe design stems from.

Also read: This hot new line of shoes at Forever 21 looks strangely familiar

Desi Twitter has caught wind of this latest instance of cultural appropriation and valid outrage has ensued.

The ajrak holds a special place in Sindhi culture and is traditionally presented to guests to honour them. To see a brand with no ties to Sindhi culture present it as regular fabric with no respect for its intended purpose is not okay. Also, once again, brick multi? Really?

We're kinda sick and tired of articles of clothing that stem from one's culture and traditions being taken and dubbed as 'festive' clothing or being re-branded for commercialism. Cultural appropriation erases the community from which it has taken from and is ignorant towards the context behind the item they took because to them it's a fun fashion trend.

Culture is not a trend.


M. Saeed Apr 06, 2019 01:50pm
This is the result of our failure to register our Ajrak designs. Now, even these foreign design/brands can take us to the courts for brand violations even on our conventional Ajrak designs as their own.
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sheema zain Apr 06, 2019 01:56pm
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jaredlee007 Apr 06, 2019 02:18pm
The colonial approach of the west has not ended. They will never give credit to those who deserve it.
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Newborn Apr 06, 2019 02:28pm
Best to give it media coverage so that the label repents cheating.
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Bareerah Fatima Apr 06, 2019 02:41pm
@M. Saeed this happens when provincial governments fights among themselves over cultural supremacy and forget external agents taking benefit of that fight...Really sad.. Govt and Foreign office in France must have sued them...
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Ahmed Lakhani Apr 06, 2019 03:39pm
The fault is not theirs but ours and ours alone.
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Asif Apr 06, 2019 04:49pm
And West shall never admit that they have plagiarized ajrak. They may even blame us Sindhis that we have stolen their design. Same old hypocrisy and double standard by the west.
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Must learn Apr 06, 2019 06:49pm
Be it Ajrak or Sindhi Cap ( Topi) these can’t be given a status of intellectual property, hence can’t be registered. These are common wears of millions of people in Pak, these have hundreds of designs. These are philanthropy products, everyone is free to benefits, gifts from Sindh Sufis, and great people of Sindh, the most accommodating and caring people of Pak, these days the bed sheets, pillow covers resembling to Sindh Culture are also available in western markets. Thank you Sindh.
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Mike Apr 06, 2019 08:39pm
@M. Saeed, I don’t agree. If the design was in existence prior to claiming the copyright/patent by the new designer then they couldn’t claim that it’s there design. The authorities gives 1 year for any claims before alloting the copyright to them.
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Syed Ahmed Apr 06, 2019 10:36pm
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Syed Ahmed Apr 06, 2019 10:37pm
@M. Saeed. Ajrak is not anyone heritage belong to only us pakistan
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sarfaraz Apr 07, 2019 05:03am
There is a simple law in the west called prior art. Someone should sue these designers for stealing prior art and they'll be taken to task. Our failure is not going after the people who steal our culture and art.
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NK Apr 07, 2019 11:07am
We r the worst in protecting ourself with patents. Ca you imagine a lot of bsinesses are still without websites
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Raz Apr 07, 2019 11:58am
Copy rights, trade marks, plagiarism are very familiar concepts to everyone. Likewise, stealing someone's cultural identities without preserving/recognising their origin is also a bad thing. It would have served as promotion had they named it Ajrak/Indus/Sindhi product to retain its history. I would call it cultural erosion or cultural coup. Another thing is "decency", yes, use of cultural identities should be in a decent manner. Everybody knows, how much varying and conflicting versions are available on the origin of language "Sindhi". This product will create language like ambiguity in the history after a century
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Nadia Apr 07, 2019 09:40pm
This is a fantastic way to stick in a little introduction of our culture to the western world.We must all appreciate and support the endeavor. What we sindhis could not accomplish in hundreds of years,American designers are helping us do it for free. Imagine how much will it increase the value of our original product ,if the people around the world start to know about it!
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Ahsan Ansari Apr 08, 2019 01:50am
The government of Pakistan should create a heritage protection agency, which should patent and register the handicrafts for Pakistani craftsman so the idea is not copied around the world.
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MAC Apr 08, 2019 03:39pm
@M. Saeed They can't do that, if taken to courts its clear cut its Sindh's culture and heritage and hundreds of years old thing.
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