February 11, 2008AsideEconomyGandhimediamodernisationSominism

Gucci doesn’t trump Gandhi

Fashion was never the Mahatma’s strong point

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Emily Wax, Washington Post’s correspondent, files a story fresh off the latest shuttle flight from Mars. People in India, she finds, are neither wearing the homespun nor living the spartan lifestyle like the great father of their nation. Why, they are going for branded goods instead!

Sominism is spreading. It’s affecting another of America’s great newspapers.

Disregarding the Mahatma’s advice on personal lifestyle and economic development is neither new nor a bad thing. Apart from its political symbolism (and political atavism today) homespun never had popular appeal. Not even in the Mahatma’s days. In fact, Gandhi himself was a practical man. He excused Sarojini Naidu from wearing khadi sarees when she complained that they made her uncomfortable. [See Clothing Matters: Dress & Identity in India, by Emma Tarlo, on Google Books. Ms Tarlo writes that few young women in Gandhi’s ashram wore the austere colours the Mahatma advocated. And that Sarojini Naidu’s choice of dress was motivated by fashion.]

Indians, meanwhile, were nothing if not brand conscious. Like other members of the species. What has changed is that rising incomes have made the more expensive brands accessible to a lot more people. That’s cause for celebration.

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