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Fashion feud

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Spanish luxury brand Balenciaga has been raising eyebrows for introducing provocative and outrageously priced products. The Paris-based company sells a checkered shopper bag that critics claim was inspired by the reusable supermarket version for 1,490 sterling pounds or a whopping P102,107.

A newly-released Balenciaga piece is also courting controversy. The Trompe L’Oeil sweatpants costs an eye-watering $1,190 or almost P60,000. But more than the price of the Balenciaga-designed trousers, critics claim it is racist and a cultural appropriation from African-Americans.

The hip-hop-inspired Trompe L’Oeil has a distinctive double waist band that critics say look like the style of Black men in the United States. Users of the outfit have been arrested and imprisoned making it racist, according to Marquita Gammage, an associate professor of Africana Studies at California State University, Northridge.

Gammage recalled the anti-sagging pants law passed in Louisiana in 2007 and abolished in 2019. It targeted Black people for wearing sagging pants below the belt, she said.

Ludivine Pont, chief marketing officer for Balenciaga, denied stealing the design, saying it has been the trademark of the fashion house to “combine different wardrobe pieces into a single garment.” In a CNN interview, Pont cited as examples their “denim jeans layered over tracksuit pants, cargo shorts merged with jeans and button-up shirts layered over t-shirts.”

While the brand, price and layered waistband of the Trompe L’Oeil easily distinguishes it from the oversized shirts and loose pants of fashionable African-Americans, the traditional clothing of Afghan women has become confusing.

Women supporters of the Taliban that is again ruling Afghanistan recently staged a rally in their black burqa to show their approval of the Islamist-prescribed cloak that covers the entire body with holes for seeing.

In response, overseas Afghan women including those who fled the country to avoid the Taliban’s restrictive rule launched an online counter-protest wherein they posted photos of themselves wearing what they claimed as the true feminine clothing for Afghans.

Clad in dress with colorful and intricate embroidery, the virtual counter-protesters also said a scarf is also traditionally worn and that black burqas are alien and odd costumes. Even Muslim Afghan women wear dresses that show their hand and face, they said.

With Afghans already having two different flags and differing religious beliefs, the dispute over women’s attires add cultural confusion to the political division already engulfing the country.

Perhaps, as a compromise, Afghan women can adopt the Balenciaga design that combines two different styles in one garment, if only to promote harmony and unity. An acceptable integrated outfit for Afghan women can only be patronized if the price is right, of course.

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