In the world we live in today, we have the ability to learn about other cultures, familiarize ourselves with different religions, and experience traditions that are foreign to us.
In this world, cultures intertwine, and diversity is celebrated, and it is a beautiful thing.
Although we have made many strides in celebrating other cultures, unfortunately, there is still work that needs to be done.
Clothing and accessories that were once considered “weird,” or “different” are now being commodified by big brands in order to make big bucks.
Fast fashion brand Shein has recently been in hot water, as consumers express anger and confusion at some of the items being sold through their e-commerce website.
Kurta pyjama sets called “top and pant sets,” being worn by white models have sparked outrage across social media platforms where many are asking the same questions: “Why couldn’t they find a South Asian model?” and “Why is the outfit's ethnic origin not being credited?”
This lack of responsibility from Shein went a step further, as they were also selling Muslim prayer mats on their website listed as “frilled Greek carpets.”
The mats also featured pictures of The Kaaba, which is the central building of Islam’s most sacred mosque in Mecca.
According to some of the reviews of the item on Shein’s website, the sacred mats were being used as pet accessories.
Since then, Shein has released a statement to its 11.4 million Instagram followers, apologizing for this mishap, and stating that they have, “formed a product review committee with staff from different cultures and religions so a mistake like this doesn’t happen again.”
However, these words do not hold much value given that Shein was slammed again two weeks later for selling swastika necklaces.
Although they claim they were selling the swastika as the Buddhist symbol for spirituality and good fortune, a global brand such as this one should have done a bit more homework - especially considering their newfound product review committee.
Since then, Shein has ceased the sale of any religious items on their sites, and it appears that the infamous kurta pyjama sets are unlisted as well.
As consumers, we have the continual responsibility to keep big brands like Shein in check, especially when they are choosing to profit off of religious and cultural items that do not belong to them, and especially without proper credit.
There is a fine line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation, but with the right education and credentials, this intertwining of cultures can be something to celebrate – just not like this.
Thankfully, Shein has been open to feedback and has made adjustments in order to continue to satisfy customers without being offensive, so let's hope it stays that way.
You can DM them on their page @sheinfeedback if you have any criticisms, complaints, or suggestions for them.