Globalization and the Conflation of Culture, China

The woman below just barely missed making the Top 10 of 2010 List, but I felt that I could structure a whole post around her because she looks like the ultimate mixed baby… She looks like she could be from Asia, Europe, North America, South America, or any other number of places, and she’s also got some pretty rockin’ style to boot!

This got me thinking about globalization and our world getting smaller and our cultures mixing and all that good and inevitable stuff… But what I’m specifically interested in is how will the exchange of goods and ideas manifest itself sartorially? Will some cultures throw aside their own cultural values and materials in favor of others? This has happened a lot in China with “sartorial cultural imperialism” by fashion brands with conspicuous trademarks like Louis Vuitton and Burberry, and it’s not a pretty outcome:

This all reminded me of a great set of shots I got in Yunnan of a Naxi minority grandmother wearing traditional clothing and sporting a Nike bag:

I actually quite liked the juxtaposition, as it is rare to see such a mix of traditional ethnic clothing with modern corporate branding and logos…

I think that this woman still retains so much of her character, so she can afford to carry around a Nike bag which is usually a form of homogenization of the individual in China.

My favorite part of this ensemble was the hat… I must learn how to fold fabric like that atop my head!!

And I hope that she’s teaching her granddaughter the tricks of her sartorial mix and match, how she preserves her heritage and reconciles it with globalization and big brands and conspicuous logos…

The granddaughter looks like she’s getting a healthy dose of color and minority sartorial culture with her pink ensemble…

But when she is older and independently chooses how to dress herself, how will she do it? Will she become a part of the conforming masses, of the many individuals in China who (falsely) claim their success and wealth through conspicuous trademarks and logos like Burberry tartan? Or will she choose to be an individual, one who incorporates and preserves her sartorial history?

It’s a lot of responsibility for such a little girl, but I hope she takes the road less traveled and asserts her individuality and unique personal history through her sartorial practices.

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