And we’re glad you asked. Because like we said: This is personal. Not only are our products rooted in the West African experience that defines us — and made from fabric that traces its origins to Indonesia — they are also rooted in our unique and complex experiences growing up as first-generation Americans.
Do you have to share that heritage or experience to wear DIOP?
No. In fact, that’s missing the point.
DIOP is about inclusion, not exclusion. We design apparel for anyone who believes fitting out is better than fitting in, which means making it accessible to everyone who shares that philosophy. That’s why we hope that whatever your story may be, when you wear DIOP you’re not only wearing that story on your sleeve, you’re also expressing an interest in learning about ours, as well as those of the people you meet every day.
What is Cultural Appropriation?
Cultural appropriation is defined as the use or mimicry of artifacts or manners from another culture without acknowledgment, citation or permission. The manifestation of this phenomenon can take many forms — like borrowing customs, style or slang — and create some blurred lines.
Having witnessed our respective cultures being appropriated time and time again, we want to confront the issue by bringing the conversation to the forefront and helping push it forward.
Why is Cultural Appropriation an issue?
The problem is not that non-native people want to sport Bindis or Bantu Knots, wear headdresses or do the ‘Harlem Shake.’ It only becomes a problem they do so with no thought to or acknowledgment of the deep and profound meaning these customs have to the people and cultures to whom they belong. That’s when cultural appropriation becomes a form of colonialism — itself a system of oppression — and a violation of the collective intellectual property rights of the originating, notably indigenous, minority cultures, and those living under colonial rule.
Simply put, culture is not an accessory. And when traditions are reduced to "exotic" fashion or toys by those from a dominant culture, their true meaning is lost or distorted. That’s why such displays are understandably seen as disrespectful towards, or worse, a desecration of, the originating culture in question. Because when something important to you is sold separately from its origin without attribution, it disregards its purpose and impoverishes and alienates the people who created it.
Is DIOP Cultural Appropriation?
The short answer is no. We’re building DIOP on a foundation of love and respect that gets stronger with each product we produce and every connection we make. Whether through education or simply conversation about the history and legacy of the Black Diaspora — from Colonialism to Pan-Africanism to Afro-Modernism — we’re at once celebrating a point of view and creating space for those who might share in or want to learn about it.
Am I a Cultural Appropriator if I wear DIOP?
Wearing DIOP does not make you a cultural appropriator — but doing so without an understanding of the culture and history behind it does. But if you have a few minutes and an open mind, we’ll give you the tools you need to educate yourself and articulate DIOP to others. From there, it's on you to start or engage in those conversations.
What if someone believes I'm an appropriator?
- Ask them to explain why they feel that way and listen closely when they do.
- Explain the brand, who's behind it and what it means to you.
- Have them visit this page.
- Have them call us. Seriously, here's our number: (313) 338-9898.
This is a conversation that has long preceded us and will continue long after, so please feel free to reach out with your concerns, insights and, of course, curiosity.