It’s long been popular for designers to borrow ethnic symbols, cultural traditions, and styles. Remember the Nehru jacket? Usually, the borrowing is called inspiration and few people complain. That does not mean the practice is without its critics.
When bindi forehead dots and henna tattoos became an American fad in the late 1990s, many Indians seethed over the plunder of their culture for fashion profits. Celebrities like Madonna, Gwen Stefani, and Destiny’s Child fueled the trend by showing up to awards shows decked out with the dots.
The bindi is no longer what it once wasa symbol of being Hindu and of having a symbolic union with God, says Sunita, a twenty-one-year-old Yale University senior. Now, it is not only a fashionable item to wear but is also mass-produced specifically for export to other countries.
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