Indian fashion brand faces backlash for campaign exoticising Kashmir amid aftermath of Article 370 abrogation

A recent campaign by Indian fashion brand Raw Mango, based in and inspired by Kashmir, drew heavy criticism on account of insensitively 'exoticising' the state two months after the abrogation of Article 370

FP Staff October 04, 2019 13:46:11 IST
Indian fashion brand faces backlash for campaign exoticising Kashmir amid aftermath of Article 370 abrogation
  • On Wednesday, the high-end brand founded by designer Sanjay Garg posted videos, photographs and stories of their collection 'Zooni' on Instagram.

  • The images depicted a woman in a red, designer pheran, draping a bridal veil at her wedding.

  • On Thursday, after rescinding their campaign from Instagram, Raw Mango clarified that the idea behind it was conceived well before Article 370's abrogation in Kashmir.

A recent campaign by Indian fashion brand Raw Mango, based in and inspired by Kashmir, drew criticism on account of insensitively "exoticising" the state that is currently in its second month of a communication blockade. On 5 August, the central government abrogated Section 370 and 35A in Jammu and Kashmir that conferred special status upon the state, consequently imposing a lockdown on the region anticipating security threat.

On Wednesday, the high-end brand founded by designer Sanjay Garg posted videos, photographs and stories of their collection 'Zooni' on Instagram. The images depicted a woman in a red, designer pheran (a traditional Kashmiri cloak), draping a bridal veil at her wedding.

Indian fashion brand faces backlash for campaign exoticising Kashmir amid aftermath of Article 370 abrogation

Raw Mango's campaign 'Zooni', now taken down, drew criticism online

According to this article on Medium, the uploaded images and video, which have now been taken down, were captioned "Zooni...because Kashmir is about its people. Which needs to be seen and heard."

Social media backlash followed soon after, as people slammed the brand for an "exploitative" campaign that comes at a time of acute turmoil in Kashmir.

"A set of people are suffering under a lockdown and the fashion world does what it does best — sell the "trending Kashmir" with '"magnificent" photos by a photographers [sic] who say they they have doing a lot of work in Kashmir...Opportunism must also have some sense of timing. Kashmir is not festive. Not now," reads a Facebook post.

"#RawMango's neo-orientalist gaze whitewashed the military siege and fetishised Kashmiri women," says another.

On Thursday, after rescinding their campaign from Instagram, Raw Mango issued a clarification on the platform stating that the idea behind it was conceived well before Article 370's abrogation in Kashmir.

"At Raw Mango our process of design requires a two year lead time, from research to stores. In November 2017, our design team began research and textile development for ‘Zooni’, a collection drawing from Kashmir. Each textile and silhouette is created through an exploration of this country — though traditions, rituals and craftsmanship across different regions... In May 2019, we began to explore campaign directions for Zooni, and a recce was done on May 2019 in Srinagar. The shoot was executed over 5 days from 27 June-2 July 2019. A release was planned for 8 August 2019 and given the political and social climate surrounding the region, the launch was postponed. The decision to withhold the images has since been under considerable discussion and concern. The decision to release the images shot by Avani Rai was the decision of the brand. The campaign imagery for Zooni was released on the evening of 2 October 2019 on Instagram, and recalled that evening respecting public sentiment on timing and intent."  

 

 

 

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  At Raw Mango our process of design requires a two year lead time, from research to stores. In November 2017, our design team began research and textile development for ‘Zooni’, a collection drawing from Kashmir. Each textile and silhouette is created through an exploration of this country - though traditions, rituals and craftsmanship across different regions. For instance our 2018 collection ‘Heer’, alluded to the culture of pre-partition Punjab. In May 2019, we began to explore campaign directions for Zooni, and a recce was done on May 2019 in Srinagar. The shoot was executed over 5 days from June 27 - July 2, 2019. A release was planned for August 8th, 2019 and given the political and social climate surrounding the region, the launch was postponed. The decision to withhold the images has since been under considerable discussion and concern. The decision to release the images shot by Avani Rai was the decision of the brand. The campaign imagery for Zooni was released on the evening of Oct 2, 2019 on Instagram, and recalled that evening respecting public sentiment on timing and intent.   A post shared by RAW MANGO | SANJAY GARG (@raw_mango) on

Avani Rai, daughter of photographer Raghu Rai, shot extensively for the campaign, as her prolific work on Kashmir prompted Sanjay Garg to approach her for the project, according to a report by The Print“My father and I said we can’t be a part of this. We were contract bound but we asked if they can push the release date since we had no control over it...the Instagram story coming down yesterday was a result of me telling Sanjay that I’m not comfortable with this. I asked for my name to be removed,” Avani said.

The photographer has been further criticised for the poorly-timed posts, considering most of her work has been based in Kashmir.

“One fashion campaign does not define what I do. I’m focusing on documenting the turmoil in Kashmir. This is very trivial in comparison. I want the people to know what is happening there through my photography and not such a campaign,” she said, however adding that Raw Mango’s intentions “were to share their work inspired by the beauty and grace of Kashmir as an expression of an artist”.

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