Popular fashion retailers such as ASOS and Pretty Little Thing are notorious for stealing designs from traditional Asian garments and rebranding them as their own. These westernized-versions of Asian dresses are usually worn by non-Asian models, are very revealing and oversexualized (unlike their traditional versions), and are not labeled as what they actually are – qipao or cheongsam.
Every once in a while, these designs will go viral on social media, sparking debates regarding cultural appropriation and drawing in criticism for disrespecting Asian culture while profiting off of cheap knock offs of traditional gowns.
However, no matter what your stance is on the cultural appropriation debate, we can all agree on one thing — these tacky designs are absolutely tragic.
Pretty Little Thing
Pretty Little Thing has been criticized multiple times in the past for oversexualizing and appropriating traditional Asian gowns, but that still hasn’t stopped them from rolling out new versions of these “oriental” dresses on a regular basis. In fact, these seven designs make up a very small fraction of their overall collection of “Oriental” or “Eastern” garments.
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Within a week, they promoted these Asian-inspired outfits twice on their Instagram account despite backlash and have yet to respond to criticisms. On their website, there are dozens of additional so-called “oriental” clothing pieces for sale.
Like many other fashion retailers, Missguided has gone viral multiple times for their controversial products.
In 2017, they made international headlines after being accused of stealing several designs from small businesses and independent designers.
ASOS has been criticized by many POC communities for profiting off of traditional design and garments. In 2015, they pulled their bindi products after accusations of cultural appropriation and there was even a petition made asking them to stop appropriating Afghan clothing.
The company has a history of erasing the origins of their versions of traditional Asian clothes, such as when they renamed the Indian tikka, a “chandelier hair clip” back in 2017.
This time, they have made the mistake of calling what appears to be a cheongsam-style dress — which is a traditional Chinese garment — as a “Hello Kitty Japan night dress”.
Fashion Nova has faced both plagiarism and cultural appropriation accusations repeatedly within just the past few years. In 2018, a tweet accusing the company of stealing designs from smaller artists went viral and just a month after this incident, they went viral for a geisha Halloween costume many felt were insensitive and disrespectful.