The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributor at Brown Girl Magazine but do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the publication.
So if you haven’t heard about it, hear about it now: Zara caused ripples earlier this month because of a rather ugly garment, pictured below.
When one sees this offending piece, especially someone who is of South Asian descent, they can’t help but recognize the similarity of this and a particular form of casual wear for men quite popular in the South of India, and beyond. I am referring to, of course, the lungi. Dhoti, lungi, mundu, whatever you may call it, that seems to have been the inspiration behind this piece.
Many were up in arms, decrying the Zara lungi for cultural appropriation and how the white folks are back at it with swiping from our culture. All well-founded concerns to be sure. As a people, our traditions and culture have been ridiculed by the Western hemisphere. So rightfully so, one must have outrage.
But, this is fashion. To take it even further, this is fast fashion. The fashion world is notorious for borrowing from cultures, countries, and each other. It is almost a prerequisite to copy from somebody. So, to me, and I am aware this will be an unpopular opinion, the biggest issue with this skirt is the price. $70 for this is ridiculous, Zara; I’ll give you $10 and not a penny more.
The skirt isn’t exactly a lungi — it happens to share the same pattern that is popular with dhotis. I mean my father must have a few in that horrendous print. Which leads to my next question: for those that are offended, are they or have they attempted to rock these dhotis? Or does their rage come from perhaps a guilty conscience? Guilty because they have been embarrassed by their own fathers at one point or another for wearing their lungis out to get the mail (mine has done this one too many times)?
This is a style of clothing meant to be worn essentially for housework or pajamas. Someone figured out how to take that, pre-pleat it, make it look relatively chic, and slapped a price tag with a nice margin. Can you really fault that? They’ve managed to market it better than we have certainly.
This conflict of cultural appropriation is difficult to tackle when it comes to fashion. It reminds me of the controversy over John Galliano’s Diorentalism haute couture collection and Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium collection. These designer’s borrowed heavily from Chinese culture, especially the fabric and silhouettes. Was that an homage or a blatant robbery? If you attended the Costume Institute’s China: Through the Looking Glass, there was a powerful moment of understanding how culture and fashion go hand in hand. It is a source of inspiration, that is taken and applied to a garment. That is all; I, unfortunately, can’t see it past that. Perhaps I lack the sensitivity to comprehend the full extent of the hoopla.
These days, Zara and H&M provide a way for those of us with couture tastes and fast fashion wallets to enjoy a variety of runway offerings. I myself own several pieces of theirs that are direct copies of designers such as Givenchy, Dolce & Gabbana, and Valentino. The flagrant theft is accepted as the norm because, again, this is fashion. What really are the rules?
Liya Thachil is the co-founder of WESTxEAST, which is a retail brand aiming to provide South Asian inspired basics. It was created because of the need she and her co-founder, Tania Chackumkal, discovered for sari blouses, petticoats, kurtas, etc. They believe the silhouettes of the subcontinent should be more globally embraced. WxE aims to be a movement towards style beyond borders. Liya is an avid collector of vintage saris and believes all women should own at least one Kanchipuram sari.
Dashing through the aisles, in a festive shopping spree, in the air, there’s a feeling of glee! The most wonderful time of the year is upon us, and what better way to spread joy than by curating a gift guide that celebrates diversity and creativity. Jingle bell, jingle bell, it’s time to share the cheer! Join us on a sleigh ride through the realms of home, fashion, beauty, food, and kids, as we showcase the brilliance of South Asian and minority-owned brands. The holiday season is more than just tinsel and lights; it’s a time to embrace the spirit of giving.
Dive into a world of premium artisan dried fruit-based products, seamlessly combining gourmet excellence with a commitment to a healthy lifestyle — 100% natural, preservative-free, and without added cane sugar. Elevate your festivities with these exquisite, guilt-free indulgences.
Explore the culinary magic of ‘The Chutney Life Cookbook‘ this season, a perfect gift for busy moms and curious cooks alike. A culinary treasure trove filled with anecdotes, love notes, and time-saving tips. Share the joy of flavorful journeys inspired by travels and Indian-American cooking traditions.
Savor the joy of the season with the ‘Milk and Cardamom’ cookbook — infusing every occasion with bold, unforgettable desserts inspired by Indian-American heritage. From Ginger–Chai Chocolate Pot de Crème to Gulab Jamun Bundt Cake, each bite is a celebration worth sharing. Get it here!
Bring home the flavors of India with The Cumin Club’s ready-to-eat meals — a diaspora-inspired solution, crafted by expert chefs using regional ingredients for an authentic taste of comfort; perfect for the busy holiday season.
If you’re craving authentic chai that tastes just like what you’d get back in India, check out Kolkata Chai Co at either of two city New York City location or order from their online store. Their “Aunty Approved” masala chai is a must-try!
Sip the spirit of the season with Kola Goodies’ teas — crafted from high-quality, directly sourced ingredients that not only bring freshness to your cup but also empower the communities they hail from. Share the warmth of conscious sipping this festive holiday.
Are you a chai lover? If so, you need to check out The Chai Box’s fantastic tea blends! From the aromatic Masala Chai to soothing Green Tea, each hand-crafted blend takes you on a flavorful journey through the diverse regions of India.
Fuel your day with Transcendence Coffee, a brew that breaks free from traditional limits, merging specialty beans and all-natural flavors for a truly unique and exotic coffee experience. It’s not just coffee; it’s a flavorful journey connecting cultures and countries worldwide, starting with the founders’ roots in India and Algeria.
Embrace the sunshine spirit with a 7-year-old rum from the Philippines. Infused with tropical vibes, it boasts flavors of sweet pineapple, a hint of vanilla, and a pinch of sea salt — here’s some island bliss for the holidays.
Ignite your holiday celebrations with Naagin Sauce — an authentic tribute to India’s spice culture. Free from purees and high fructose corn syrup, these hot sauces are a versatile, high-quality blend, perfect for the true Indian palate. Bring the warmth and flavor of India to your festive table.
Sip into the holidays with Vahdam Teas, a favorite of icons like Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres. Indulge in premium teas sourced directly from India, elegantly delivered to your doorstep, making for the perfect gift or personal treat this festive season.
Delight in the holidays with Madhu Chocolate, a small-batch, award-winning chocolatier crafting unique Indian-inspired flavors. Indulge in handcrafted chocolate made with cacao from India and Colombia. Support a 100% LGBTQ+ and 50% BIPOC minority-owned business from Austin, Texas, making for a sweet and inclusive holiday treat.
Spice up your festive season with Diaspora Co. — bringing you the freshest, heirloom, and single-origin spices directly from South Asian farmers. Elevate your holiday cooking and add a touch of authentic flavor to your celebrations.
Wake up to the holidays with Ministry of Kaapi! This woman-owned, wildlife-friendly coffee haven is all about fine Indian coffee. Sourced, imported, and roasted with love — their super slow-drip Decoction proves that good things, especially coffee, take time. Cheers to festive sips!
Savor divine indulgence with Theobroma —’ Food of the Gods.’ From brownies to breads, their heavenly treats spread smiles nationwide. If you find yourself in India this holiday season, don’t miss the joy at Theobroma Patisseries!
Add some noise to your holiday cooking with Omsom, a Vietnamese phrase for noisy and riotous, just like our unruly childhood car rides. Crafted by two first-gen Vietnamese sisters, Omsom brings delicious sauces and saucy noodles in collaboration with iconic Asian chefs. Get ready for a flavorful riot!
Up the ante in your kitchen with Our Place, where kitchen essentials meet connections made across the table. Begin your culinary journey today with their Heirloom dinnerware, creating moments that last.
Bask in the golden goodness of Brightland — consciously crafted extra virgin olive oils and vinegar from California, containing nothing but fruit, love, and sunshine. Explore their mini bottles, the perfect stocking stuffers that bring a taste of the Golden State to your holiday season.
Awaken your taste buds with Driftaway Coffee — offering personalized, farmer-focused, and eco-friendly subscriptions, delivering a unique tasting experience. Keep an eye out for their Indian-origin coffee, adding a touch of warmth and flavor to your holiday sips.
Elevate your hydration game with Urja — 100% real coconut water straight from Kerala. Cold-crafted to retain all the nutrients and flavor, URJA is your go-to for pure refreshment. Stay hydrated and refreshed this holiday season!
Snack guilt-free with Asha Pops — offering healthy, vegan, and paleo low-calorie treats made from popped water lily seeds, known as makhana. These plant-based delights are not just low in calories but also delicious.
Elevate your well-being with Spicewell’s clean and delicious pantry essentials, blending ancient Ayurvedic wisdom with modern science. Their commitment to non-GMO, vegan ingredients ensures a guilt-free indulgence.
South Asian-American fusion snacks made with guilt-free ingredients? Yes, please. Their holiday box comes with their staple offerings: Black Truffle Masala, Chili Chaat Popcorn, Mint Chaat Popcorn, and a bag of their Black Truffle Masala-Oven Roasted Peanuts and Chili Chaat Oven-Roasted Peanuts.
A slow fashion handmade brand that brings timeless elegance to your holiday season. Crafted using traditional methods, their durable sandals are inspired by the classic Kohlapuris’ blending of conventional and modern designs for a unique touch.
The pioneers of Desi food-inspired jewelry — from jalebis to pani puri — their quirky-themed earrings make the perfect holiday gift for co-workers or your secret Santa group. Add a sprinkle of fun and flavor to your festivities!
A small batch, Indo-Western swimwear boutique bringing you unique, desi-inspired designs crafted for beach comfort. Make a splash this holiday season with distinctive swimwear that stands out on the shore.
Tia Bhuva is a pioneer in game-changing saree silhouettes that offer maximum comfort, efficiency, and effortlessness. Beyond sarees, they curate great ethnic options with the intention of helping you look and feel your best, hassle-free.
Houston-based slow fashion studio merging South Asian art with contemporary design to create bold and beautiful garments. Seize the opportunity to add their unique pieces to your collection this holiday season!
Wrap yourself in the warmth of State Cashmere — crafted with generations of expertise from Inner Mongolia’s cashmere heritage. Improve your winter style with luxurious pieces that bring comfort and sophistication to your holiday season!
Founded by three in 2013, Dagne Dover creates problem-solving bags – for all the problem-solving humans out there. An eco-friendly brand, Dagne Dover bags keep up, stay organized, and look good doing it.
Dive into the unique world of Warp, a Pakistani-made contemporary brand reshaping fashion norms with high-quality, abstract forms, and minimalist accessories. Discover non-conformist aesthetics and support the reinvention of leather craftsmanship.
A Los Angeles-based brand, intricately weaving traditional Indian textile techniques. Crafted in Gujarat by local artisans, their designs are not just stylish but also embody fair labor practices, time-honored craftsmanship, and a touch of holiday flair!
An innovative brand founded by a mother-son duo, seamlessly blending traditional craftsmanship with modern technology. Morni’s subscription-based platform revolutionizes the fashion landscape, promoting supply chain transparency and radical self-expression.
Explore the intersection of sustainability and luxury with Gundi Studios, a brand redefining the connection between traditional Indian textile techniques and contemporary silhouettes. Crafted by women for non-traditional women,.
This is a brand that epitomizes contemporary chic with a touch of traditional elegance. Gift the joy of bold prints and fashion-forward designs to your loved ones, encapsulating the spirit of celebration in every outfit. And calling all brides-to-be, don’t miss out on exploring Masaba’s first-ever bridal collection that debuted this fall — a blend of modern sophistication and timeless charm for your special day!
If you’re looking to indulge in some sonu (gold) this holiday season, check out Sonu Company for fine jewelry. As seen on the latest season of “Indian Matchmaking,” this brand is 100% Seema Aunty-approved!
A Jaipur-based fashion haven enriched with the essence of rural India’s historical textile techniques, HARAGO seamlessly blends tradition with modernity. By crafting contemporary clothing, this brand contributes to the preservation of ancient crafts, empowering traditional artisans to share their legacy with a global audience.
A brand crafted with a vision to amplify the artistry of South Asian craftsmanship — and operating between the vibrant streets of Delhi, India, and North Carolina — Sani brings to life clothing and accessories inspired by the rich cultural tapestry of South Asia.
Get ready to chill in style with Monday Chill! They’re all about bringing you the comfiest bamboo loungewear that’s both budget-friendly and downright luxurious. Say hello to effortless everyday coolness!
Add a cozy touch to your space with House of Amu’s exquisite cushions. Plus, enjoy a free 30-minute consult to discover the perfect pillow combination that suits your style and elevates your home decor.
If you’re feet are constantly cold, The Kushie keeps you warm year-round.Available in picture worthy prints like plaid, chenille, rose and blush, you can be sure to find one for you or someone you love.
Celebrate the season with Nayana Design Studio, where each hand-illustrated pattern is a whimsical blend of global inspiration and Indian tradition. Gift joy, magic, and meaning with their unique and vibrant creations.
Unwrap the essence of South Asian culture with Shop Kishmish’s hand-poured candles and thoughtfully designed paper goods. Each product preserves the charms of tradition, offering relatable and nostalgic delights for the festive season.
Toast to the festive season in style with Rayt’s vibrant glassware, adding a pop of color to your celebrations. Crafted with high-quality materials, these glasses are perfect for clinking in joyous moments that last a lifetime.
Your ultimate online plant shop, catering to plant enthusiasts of all levels. Whether you’re a budding plant parent or searching for the perfect green gift, The Sill has you covered with a variety of plants, resources, and delightful merchandise!
Dive into the world of cultural crafts with Hamesha Project’s enchanting kits. Each kit is a celebration of slow regional crafts from South Asia, offering a mindful and joyful crafting experience for kids and beyond.
Founded by the sister duo Taran and Bunny, the brand was created to make self care easier and healthier, while destigmatizing normal things like acne, puberty, periods and sex ed. We’re here to protect and nurture, and shift the narrative away from perfect skin and towards healthy skin.
Powered by science, backed by tradition, AAVRANI honors the founder Rooshy Roy’s beauty and celebrates her duality by uniting my worlds: clinically-proven, modern-day routine and ancient, all-natural rituals.
Spice up your holiday gifts with Teak Beauty’s lip products, a nod to the beauty of South Asian traditions. Crafted by Telugu sisters Nupoora and Pooja Reddy, these lip essentials bring a touch of glamour inspired by the intricate Teak wood doors of our homes. Perfect for adding a pop of color and culture to your festive season!
Treat yourself — or a loved one — to the beauty of Ayurveda with Forest Essentials. Indulge in organic facial, body, and hair care for a truly rejuvenating holiday pampering. Stock up on these cult favorites for a luxurious and wellness-filled season.
Your mother’s wisdom comes to life in Ghlee’s products, harnessing the goodness of ghee. Their lip balms are a godsend, especially during harsh winters, and make for the perfect gift. Not to mention, they smell divine!!
Transform your skincare routine with Ranavat, uniting luxury and Ayurvedic wisdom. With a cult following, their Mini Rituals Set is the perfect gift for a skincare enthusiast, promising indulgence and radiant results this holiday season.
Discover thoughtful beauty crafted with deep understanding and care for diverse skin types. With a goal of promoting healthy skin for all, Sachi Skin brings you skincare solutions that cater to your unique needs.
Indulge in the goodness from the Indian forest with Soma Ayurveda. As featured in VOGUE, ALLURE, and VANITY FAIR, their products offer an intimate way to experience fragrance and embrace each season with skin that shines.
Experience inside-out nourishment with Kanya. Their products, rooted in ancient yogic Chakra Balancing and Aromatherapy, go beyond skincare. They leave your skin supple, hydrate your body, elevate your mood, and work on internal imbalances through distinct chakra-focused essential oil blends.
Immerse yourself in the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda with Pure Alchemy Beauty. Rooted in this 5,000-year-old Indian healing system, their handcrafted products embrace every Ayurvedic principle, ensuring a holistic approach to skincare.
Redefining beauty standards, Mudita Earth is on a mission to bring clean beauty to women of color. Embrace skincare that empowers without compromise, providing a toxin-free path to glowing, confident skin.
Ever wondered how to make your daily skincare routine more exciting? Enter Nopalera! Their body products, infused with prickly pear and cactus, add a touch of Mexican freshness to your self-care game. give it a try!
Seeking a skincare routine that caters to diverse skin needs? Plantkos has got you covered! Their clinically-inclusive range addresses common concerns, ensuring effective results for all skin types and tones.
A South Asian haircare brand that needs to find a spot on your beauty shelf ASAP! Their Back To Your Roots Scalp and Hair Pre-wash offers all the benefits of a deep hair oil massage without the hassle of greasy strands.
On a mission to bring the wisdom of her foremothers, the secrets they held dear, and the natural ingredients they trusted, each tube of Aks Ubtan is a testament to this legacy. Enriched with Ayurveda’s power, their skin polish is a harmonious blend of nature’s most potent ingredients, such as Turmeric, Honey, Lactic Acid, and Jasmine Flowers.
Celebrate your unique beauty with Smart Melanin™ Beauty! Created by women of color, for women of color, Eadem offers science-backed, inclusive skincare that embraces, rather than alters, your natural tone. Redefine beauty standards with skincare made just for you.
Let’s make this season merrier by supporting these unique businesses and delighting our loved ones with thoughtful treasures that reflect the rich tapestry of our world. Happy holidays, and may your festivities be as bright and beautiful as the gifts you give!
Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is a time for joy, togetherness, and celebration. As we come together with family and friends to honor the victory of light over darkness and hope over despair, we also exchange heartfelt gifts to show love and to honor those we hold dear. It’s a time to clean and brighten up our homes, dazzle in festive fashion, share and pass down customs we choose to honor with our kids, and savor delectable treats with loved ones. The essence of Diwali lies in the thoughtful exchange of gifts that symbolize affection, appreciation, and blessings. Now, let’s explore our carefully selected brands to help you find the perfect Diwali gifts and beyond (so be sure to bookmark for many desi-centric holidays).
Blume’s vegan, certified clean, climate-neutral, and plastic-neutral range allows you to look and feel good, thanks to its all-natural ingredients. Their TikTok-trending product, the Meltdown Gel Cream with Ceramides, is in our cart — how about yours?
If you’re looking to indulge in some sonu (gold) this festive season, check out Sonu Company for their fine jewelry. As seen on the latest season of “Indian Matchmaking,” they even offer bespoke engagement rings to help you drop a hint to that special someone. This brand is 100% Seema Aunty approved!
RAGA reimagines classic silhouettes with vibrant textiles and beautiful bohemian prints, inspiring authentic self-expression. Whether you’re looking for options for menswear or womenswear, they have something for everyone.
Kulture Khazana’s products are sure to make Diwali a memorable occasion for your kids. Their interactive and engaging products aim to share Indian cultural stories with children through play activities.
As we celebrate Diwali and exchange gifts symbolizing affection and blessings, let’s also remember the importance of mindful giving. Supporting smaller South Asian businesses during this festive season is a wonderful way to strengthen communities. However, let’s buy thoughtfully, within our means, and prioritize meaningful gifts over extravagance. The essence of Diwali lies in love and togetherness, and by doing what works best for you, we can keep that spirit alive.
I’ve never considered myself to be a part of the fashion world here in New York. Until a few years ago, I couldn’t even tell you what my style was. Today, it’s clear how much my clothes are influenced by my time living in India for six years as a teenager. You’ll usually see me pair a sari blouse with a pair of pants, a khadi print skirt, or a dress that my family’s tailor back in Kolkata made of cloth my mother and I spotted and loved in the store next door.
My Indian heritage is an integral part of my identity, so when I was asked if I could write about South Asian designers debuting their collections, how could I say no?
I first heard about South Asian New York Fashion Week (SANYFW) last year from a friend who walked the runway for one of the designers. I’d heard about the infamous New York Fashion Week of course, but based on the name, I assumed this venture was to increase the representation of South Asian designers, especially because fashion is an industry with high barriers to entry, making it especially difficult for BIPOC designers to break through and showcase their talent.
I wasn’t far off the mark, according to one of this season’s designers, Sandeep Tupili, cofounder of the brand Maison Tai.
“I come from the South of India and growing up I never saw clothes like this on the runway,” he said. “Now, as a gay Indian designer, I’ve never really been supported like this, in a space like this. This community is truly incredible.”
Community is what I found in the days I ran around attending the various SANYFW events, which took place between September 9 and September 13, starting with actress Richa Moorjani headlining for Raas, a contemporary luxury clothing brand from India. I’m a journalist who reports on BIPOC influencers, I’m Indian, and I used to be an editor at Brown Girl Magazine, so I knew a lot of faces in the room already when I walked into the press gathering, the first event of the week. I was unprepared, though, for the immediate warmth from the people I just met. Faces that lit up whenever they saw me, engaging in conversations about representation, and checking in to see how my day was going.
It’s that kind of community that Shipra Sharma and Hetal Patel, cofounders of SANYFW, have been working so hard to cultivate this second time around, based on learning lessons from season one.
“I really want to see these designers create their own network and create their own connections because we can provide the platform, but for the designers to get to the next level, it’s about the people who get involved with their brands,” Sharma said. “I’m honestly so overwhelmed with joy because 10 years ago, I couldn’t even fathom having a space like we do today where they could do this.”
Another one of the designers I met was Sheel Svarini, who graduated college only two years ago and took this season’s SANYFW by storm when she debuted her collection Svarini, which she describes as a “Bridgerton”-inspired play on Indo-Western clothing. When she walked out after the models displaying her designs at the multi-designer fashion show on September 13, she was met with cheers, whistles, and some standing ovations.
“I was designing my clothing as I watched the show last year, so it’s really a full-circle moment for me,” she said. “I didn’t study fashion at all, I was studying engineering, and there’s no way I could have done it without the opportunities I’ve gotten here.”
You could feel Sheel’s joy every time in the space—every time she saw me, she, quite literally, picked me off the floor in a hug. For Archie Agarwal, founder of handmade fine jewelry and accessories brand Studio Kiyan,it was a tap on the shoulder and a long hug whenever she saw me.
“Spaces like this are so critical for the young boys and girls out there to see that they’ll be accepted for who they are,” she said. “I can only imagine how many designers will be here in the next few years, and it could be because they saw us on their social media.”
Maheen Haq, the designer behind Babougie, agrees. At the multi-designer presentations event on September 11, she was one of the people asked to explain more about her brand, and she highlighted how grateful she was to the packed room of South Asians who showed up in support.
“When I was young growing up in Pakistan, I felt like I didn’t have a lot of options because I couldn’t find clothes in my size,” she said. “Not many people, even today, would accept a brand that prioritizes hand-blocking printing from Pakistan so that just shows what kind of community Hetal and Shipra are trying to build.”
Meanwhile, Promiti Prosun of the brand Chaa Latte, embodies the concept of community in her clothes. Our interview was interspersed with revelations about our similarities—we’re both Bengali, we both quit our jobs during the pandemic in 2021 and pivoted careers: me to journalism and her to fashion.
“The space to be seen like this wasn’t there before,” she said. “My collection is about community actually, about feeling comfortable and accepted when you’re walking into spaces dressed in your clothing.”
It’s designer Madiha Dhanani, founder of brand Jamil by MD, who highlighted the unique element of SANYFW on their last night of shows: helping people from the diaspora embrace both sides of their identities.
“We keep our worlds so separate, American and Indian, and it’s time we start blending our backgrounds together,” she said. “That’s what makes SANYFW so important. It’s creating the room for us to showcase the way that fashion is moving forward.”
After Dhanani’s collection debuted on the runway, excited conversations were already breaking out about what next year’s SANYFW would hold and how much bigger it could be, especially given this year’s recognition by outlets like Good Morning America, NBC News, and Bloomberg.
As for me, I’ll eagerly be awaiting the chance to meet more inspirational South Asian designers and creatives next September. It’s goes beyond the designers and clothes for me, it’s about it’s about continuing to support the community that was fostered this year.