Bollywood actress Urvashi Rautela has come under fire this week, upsetting thousands of Afghan fans around the world after posting Afghan traditional cultural clothing as Iraqi fashion on her social media platforms with a following of over 35 million. After Afghan bloggers such as Safia of BestdressedAfghan and Samira Atash alerted Urvashi to the history and culture behind the clothing items she was posting wearing, Urvashi refused to respond and instead posted more photos in the same Afghan traditional clothes with the hashtag of Iraq.
The incident of appropriation featured a dress styled in the fashion of vintage 1970s Afghan Kuchi dresses, Afghan Kuchi tribal belts with large geometric pendants, Afghan Kuchi inspired chokers, Afghan Kuchi embellishments, an Afghan Turkman ceremonial headdress, and also an assortment of traditional hand beaded medallions from the Kuchi tribes of northern Afghanistan. Kuchi medallions are not round shaped, they may have a star, heart or diamond designs making them specific to Afghanistan. Each medallion may feature either bead-work or mirror details.
The Designer of the dress which marketed it as Iraqi fashion is a relatively unknown brand called Ysr Haute Couture. Baghdad Street Style featured the Afghan clothing and accessories as Iraqi but once alerted to the incident they have since removed the photos from their Instagram page.
Ysr Haute Couture’s designer has refused to acknowledge the background of the designs she has instead chosen to gaslight Afghans by saying they are confused. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation which a person or group uses to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own judgement or perception.
Although, there are some similarities with Yemeni or perhaps North African cultural jewelry these particular pieces are not in the traditional style of the region.
.The dress used is a 1970s style Afghan Kochi dress. This designer has claimed it is a Yemeni bidawy dress but it is not traditional in Yemen to style the dress embellishing the waist and chest with mirror work and embroidery the way Afghan people do. Neither is it customary to use sourced Afghan beadwork and Medallions in Yemeni, Iraqi, North African traditional clothing. Lapis Lazuli stones were also worn. Lapis Lazuli is a stone originates from only two sites in the world which include Badakshan, Afghanistan and Shortugai, Afghanistan. Despite all of this information both the Designer and actress have still refused to issue any credit to Afghanistan.
Mariam Rahman, a 22-year-old Law student in London has commented on the matter, “It’s very saddening to see your cultural clothing being stolen right in front of your eyes and not even given the respect of credit. What’s worse is that the actress with a following of millions has not yet acknowledged Afghans though many have commented on her accounts.”
Samira Atash, an Afghan-American blogger posted to her instagram account noting that, “If Afghan sourced products are good enough to be part of your luxury brand/s, then it should be good enough to be mentioned as the source.”
Without issuing an apology it is likely Urvashi will loose a majority of her fans from Afghanistan over this incident.