Illustration for article titled Out Of Style

A reader writes: "I live in Bangladesh, where the nakshi kantha is a well-known form of folk art embroidery. Through 20 years of hard work, this art has been carefully revitalized in order to provide livelihoods to thousands of otherwise destitute Bangladeshi village women. The designs have been fully researched and documented by scholars, and the products are sold through various NGO retail outlets like Aarong and Kumudini. They are a source of deep pride among Bangladeshis... [and] while surfing the web late last night, I found myself on the Hermes website, looking at their scarves, when one particular design gave me a start. Are Hermes' 'artists' co-opting these indigenous designs for their own profit? Oh, wait, they did add some Hs to the design, so it must be original! Retail price of an actual silk nakshi kantha at an NGO outlet: $5-$15. Retail price of Hermes scarf: $355." (An authentic Bangladeshi nakshi kantha is on the left; Hermes scarf is on the right.)


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If anything, this could be a really good way to get interest in the NGOs selling the scarves. Most women who are buying Hermes scarves are not aware of NGOs selling similar products. Or in my case, someone who buys scarves as H&M and isn't aware of said NGO.