Fashion Law: appreciation vs. appropriation

Gargi Yadav, a 3rd Year law student pursuing BBA LLB (Hons.) from The Northcap University explains the relation between appreciation and appropriation in fashion law. Introduction Perhaps the most clear-cut and significant definition of cultural appropriation was given by Susan Scafidi, an author and law professor at Fordham University, who wrote in her book “who owns culture?: Appropriation and Authenticity in American law” as follows. “Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.”(1)   Susan Scafidi, “Who Owns Culture?: Appropraition and Authenticity in American Law” While this may appear to be a well-intentioned act that treads on the foundation of cultural inspiration, the danger of such appropriation is that the cultural outcome may one day become entirely disconnected from its original community. In fashion, cultural appropriation refers to the usage of non-dominant culture in a way that disregards its original meaning or fails to give credit to its source. It is not a new phenomenon but has existed for decades. Consider the seventeenth century. The three-piece suit, which is the typical ensemble of Islamic nations, was adopted by English and French aristocracy. Similarly, dandies from the English Regency period adopted the Indian “churidar” into the slim fitting pants. “Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes of where it originated, but is deemed ‘high fashion,’ ‘cool’ or ‘funny’ when the privileged take it for themselves. When power is imbalanced, cultures are no longer mingling; they’re being redefined externally

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