Bihor Not Dior by Lucy Siers
The authentic Romanian fashion brand, Bihor Couture, is taking a stand against cultural appropriation.
Standing Up to The Big Names in Fashion
Last year, for Pre-Fall 2017, French fashion powerhouse Dior made a couture jacket for €30,000 which referenced (or did it appropriate), traditional Romanian jackets, steeped in history and meaning for the people of Romania. Dior failed to credit the Romanian sources of their inspiration, leaving the local creators unknown to the world.
This is an all too common occurrence within the fashion industry. Big-name brands poach the traditional designs and clothing of unrepresented communities, without giving due recognition to their source: or perhaps more importantly, executing the presentation of the traditional garments in a manner that respects their roots. For example, Stella McCartney used traditional African motifs in her Spring/Summer 2018 collection, Louis Vuitton featured a line of blankets worn as coats by the people of Besotho and Tory Burch also copied a Romanian coat.
When shown an image of the Dior jacket, the Romanian women were shocked at how Dior had presented it in their campaign. They argued that the model should have worn a jumper beneath the jacket, rather than the mesh dress she was wearing, that “heels are meant for other outfits” and that the model “should wear a head piece”. The local women critiqued the Dior jacket. They explained that Dior “didn't make it as beautiful as ours” as their traditional jackets have “more vivid colours”.
These Romanian women refused to be overshadowed by Dior, stating that “this jacket is actually ours”.
In response, Beau Monde (a fashion magazine with 100% Romanian content) launched Bihor Couture - an authentic Romanian brand with local craftsmen as designers. This brand is responding to the unfairness of appropriation within the industry. It is aimed at helping local creators sell their clothes and support a community that is struggling to keep traditions alive. The collection comprises of authentic jackets, shirts, necklaces and bracelets.
Beau Monde wants to support genuine Romanian design and allow Romanians to continue their craft. The brand is aware of the time and effort that goes into making the pieces, so only allows for pre-ordering. They have also launched a local crafts school, to ensure that future generations maintain these traditional skills-sets.
Their website features information about the 3 main designers of Bihor: Dorina Hanza, Gladi Dogaru and Ana Popa. Each of these women has learnt their trade, handed down to each generation, from their Romanian ancestors. They want to share the beauty of traditional Romanian design with the rest of the world to allow for the appreciation and accreditation that it deserves.
In a statement Catalin Dobre, chief creative officer at McCann Worldgroup Romania, said:
"Bihor Couture is not only a brand that sells authentic clothes from Bihor. It serves as a model created to return money to the local communities, so we can enjoy these beautiful traditions for generations to come. The model can serve as an inspiration for other cultures that face the same problem,"
Tamay & Me
Bihor Couture is not alone in their mission.
Tamay & Me is a brand aiming to support the authentic craft and heritage that accompanies the traditional pieces of clothing that are at the cultural centre of this Northern Vietnamese tribe.
Hannah Cowie, who created Tamay & Me alongside Tamay herself, explained her story and vision of creation to Fashion Roundtable:
“Tamay & Me have been working together for 10 years. We became great friends and ever since have been working to raise awareness of the Red Dzao skills. We want to help women of Taphin to earn a sustainable living and to maintain their textile heritage, our jackets are the first step...
Our work is lead by Tamay, she is from the village where the jackets originally come from. She explains what feels right for her culture, and I am the facilitator. We have really complementary skills, Tamay and her culture know how to make clothes from plants, she also understands that many traditional elements of her culture are changing. I have the skills to share what the Dzao do with people around the world and to create a sustainable business.
Tamay & Me have created "The Jackets" to provide flexible work that fits within a traditional way of life, the kids, the rice, the festivals and of course the embroidery. We hope this will support the traditional way of life and the textiles whilst at the same time bringing choices and a sense of pride.
Using a traditional pattern from South East Asian farmers, we have curated a unisex jacket that is 100% traceable and entirely handmade made by artisans in North Vietnam. Every step of production helps to promote the traditional, sustainable way of life of the Red Dzao and the Tay People. The jackets are made with handspun and woven cotton that is durable yet will soften with time.”
Appreciation vs Appropriation
Fashion Roundtable’s CEO, Tamara Cincik, recently spoke on the panel of an event discussing the fine line between appropriation and appreciation. To read what was discussed, click here.