An Inspirational Guide to Appropriating Common Asian Stuff

Welcome to the mystical east. Come and draw inspiration from our everyday stuff.

BY Eugene Lim | Dec 12, 2016 | Fashion

It was Mark Twain that said, “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope." Mental it is in this case.

In our digital world, where there are almost no subcultures left to be discovered for designers to draw inspiration from, it's all about taking old ideas apart and interpreting them into an original one to give it a fresh perspective.

But where we draw the line? Is the blatant appropriation of Asian culture—transforming our everyday items, giving them a luxurious upgrade and selling it for a decent profit—acceptable for the sake of fashion?

We've seen this in Balenciaga's leather upgrade of Thailand's iconic plastic bag to Jean-Paul Gaultier's banana leaf clutch for Hermès Spring/Summer 2010 collection, that looks eerily similar to the placemat for the Nasi Lemak, and not forgetting Saint Laurent's SAF-inspired boots.

But hey, if appropriation is the name of the game, here are a few of our suggestions.


Dhobi washboard
Concept: Inspired as a vest
It's armor and also insinuates that you have washboard abs.



Dim Sum steamer
Concept: A clutch reimagined in supple nappa leather
The Dim Sum Dollies' go-to accessory.



Brown food wrapping paper
Concept: A parka
If it keeps out the grease from our food, it will keep the rain out. We think.



Ketupat (rice dumpling)
Concept: Inspired as a knitted tie
The palm leaves ages and forms an organic patina of brown. And thanks to our humid weather, rot.



"Char Bor with two Chilli Packets" by Jayden Tan.


Good Morning towel
Concept: Reimagined as a head scarf
An icon of the working class.