Luxury designer Tory Burch slammed for 'culturally appropriating' Palestinian and North African designs

Luxury designer Tory Burch slammed for 'culturally appropriating' Palestinian and North African designs
2 min read
13 December, 2021
The New York fashion label Tory Burch landed itself in hot water over 'folk-inspired' dresses, which many said were appropriating traditional embroidered designs indigenous to the Levant and North Africa.
A Palestinian woman in a traditional embroidered thawb [Getty]

The American fashion designer Tory Burch has been accused of "cultural appropriation" for featuring dresses which closely resemble Palestinian and North-African traditional embroidered designs.

Harvey Nichols described the dresses - priced upwards of £475 ($628) - as "folk inspired", meanwhile online luxury outlet Net-A-Porter marketed the piece as an "embroidered linen kaftan". 

Neither Burch nor its online stockists appear to have acknowledged the apparent Middle Eastern inspiration for the designs, which has prompted a wave of social media backlash.

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Palestinian-American activist and legal scholar Noura Erakat has led the online protests telling her followers: "As if Zionist #appropriation weren't enough, now we have to battle against designers eager to erase Palestinian tradition to make a profit. Tory Burch this is unacceptable, it's a Palestinian thawb not a caftan. Call it by its name, collaborate with the women who sustain it."

Social media users have doubled down on Burch saying it was "not a good look" and calling for a boycott of Burch's label 

In 2017, Burch angered Romanians after releasing a collection of garments that appeared almost identical to traditional garments from the Eastern European country. 

A similar online backlash prompted Burch to issue a clarifying statement that "we strive to celebrate, honour and be inclusive of all women from all countries and cultures, in the broadest way possible".

Earlier this year, controversy arose again over a jumper Burch designed, which closely resembled traditional fishermen garments from Northern Portugal, resulting in threats from the Portuguese government and the eventual removal of the item from Burch's online store.

High-street brands and luxury designers alike have often found themselves in hot water over their alleged misuse of traditional Arab designs, particularly in the context of Palestine.

In June, luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton drew criticism over its release of a men's scarf based on the keffiyeh, the traditional Arab headdress which is strongly associated with the Palestinian struggle.