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FabIndia controversy tells us how fragile our right to expression is

The absence of open support from the design fraternity indicates how reluctant the fashion industry is to stand up for itself and for freedom of expression

FabIndia withdrew the advertisement for its festive collection capsule, Jashn-e-Riwaaz, on 18 October. (Rahul Singh)

Two days after it withdrew an advertisement for its new capsule collection Jashn-e-Riwaaz, FabIndia is still battling social media trolls and right-wing commentators who accused the brand of “defacing Diwali” by using an Urdu term for its festive wear, and associating Muslim ideology with a Hindu festival. It seems like even fashion hasn’t been spared the necessity of fitting into a perfectly tailored space. 

More importantly, though, the lack of open and widespread support for FabIndia from other design houses and apparel brands indicates how reluctant the fashion industry is, in general, to stand up for its own or go against what seems to be popular sentiment. 

Also read: We need honest, not woke-y, fashion labels

FabIndia has clarified that Jashn-e-Riwaaz was not its Diwali collection, and that its forthcoming Jhil Mil Se Diwali campaign will be the one for the festival of lights, but the debate hasn’t abated. On the other side are those tweeting for FabIndia’s right to freedom of creative expression and pointing out that Urdu is a language born in India.

Lounge reached out to a number of designers but only four were willing to share their opinion on the controversy and what freedom of expression means to them. Here's what they had to say: 

Jatin Malik

Fashion is more than just putting together clothes and showcasing them. Fashion also means standing up for causes that allow change. A conversation about whether a line is based on religion is not only outmoded but also groundless. People need to have the liberty of expressing themselves the way they feel.

Gautam Gupta

Freedom of expression is as important as a designer’s creativity. The right to express truly justifies the way a designer expresses his or her design sensibilities. And a wearer has the right dress up for an occasion in any way they want. Any curtailment leads to a blockage of freedom for both.

Saisha Shinde

The boycott culture in India has become more prominent in the past decade. I feel these are all ways to incite hate on social media to promote the ultra-Hindutva philosophy, which is not what the constitution of this country was built on. 

Sujata and Taniya Biswas (Suta)

Creativity is like imagination running like a wild child. We, as a brand, need to define and express it in a way that our customers relate to and understand so that everyone feels included. 

Also read: Indian fashion: Time for a revival, again?

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