Are You Selling Ethnic Clothes in India: Wait, What?

When I started traveling outside of India for the first time, I was amazed that how similar cities looked. The same brands were spread out in each city and people wore the same clothes. Sure, there was a range from Forever 21 to Alexander McQueen, but basically style trends moved from Japan to New York in the same season. Coming from India, this was always a marvel. I was openly happy that we had retained our dressing and not become the carbon copies of everyone else in the world.

Of course this was true only for women’s dressing and driven by gender disparity, costs and also local conditions. Women wearing modern western clothes in India were not necessarily portrayed in the best light by our stereotypical films/ media for the longest time. Indian clothes in India also just suit the weather better. It is positively stupid to wear boots in the Indian summer. Or trench coats at the airport when you’re sweating even in a T-shirt. Indian clothes just perform better in local conditions. Even in the U.S., I try my best to support and shop local. It was the same in India.

Indian clothes are fantastically colorful and made of exquisite craftsmanship. I wish I could learn their techniques as they’re passed from one generation to another. You’d need more than a lifetime to assimilate. There’s so much historic value and creativity in the local designs. I wish we did more to promote and support local artisans and focused on ethical sourcing instead of waging price wars.

Are You Selling Ethnic Clothes in India: Wait, What?

Are You Selling Ethnic Clothes in India: Wait, What?

Recently on Instagram, I saw an Indian fashion blogger (living in India) using the hashtag #feelingethnic on her post. I am aware of the search value of the string but it bothered me to think that hashtags could be copied so thoughtlessly.

Perhaps it all started with a local fashion designer trying to go global. It is common to think that if you live outside your home country, you’d be considered “ethnic.” So, when any Indian fashion designer was selling clothes abroad, she was calling her collection, ethnic. Since ethnic was considered exotic in the west, other Indians decided to copy the word without reflecting on it. I did my research and found a string of online eCommerce shops, Indian fashion bloggers and multiple other stakeholders calling Indian clothes in India, ethnic clothes. And I am sorry to say that, it’s just DUMB.

Here’s a definition:

 1. relating to a population subgroup (within a larger or dominant national or cultural group) with a common national or cultural tradition.


If you live in India, you are not wearing ethnic clothes. You are wearing Indian clothes, they’re simply called clothes. I did write this to the only person I knew from Flipkart (an online mega company in India) too.


Ethnic clothes in India


Many countries that grew up with a history of colonization (like India) have often been in love with their colonizers. What else could describe the immense love of the people in the sub-continent for all things British? Despite being looted by the country, in its 200 years of colonial rule. From a business perspective, it makes sense, the same clothes sell for more in the west. So you do want to attract and open up the market for “ethnic” goods. But selling them under the ethnic name within India makes no sense. Will we start calling Indian food, ethnic food in Delhi now?

I WISH we thought a little before we dish out websites, hashtags and other such paraphernalia to the outside world. English is not our native language, but we’ve always known nakal ke liye bhi akal chahiye. Can we stop cutting corners and hire people with basic skills to write copies? Can we all just collectively stop being ethnic and stay Indian?