U.K. megabrand Asos is receiving criticism on social media for selling a South Asian tikka on their website but calling it a “chandelier head clip.”
A tikka is a piece of head jewelry worn by women at parties or weddings, and can come in many designs and sizes.
On Tuesday, London-based stay-at-home mom and Twitter user Aisha Haque was the first person who critiqued the company for not calling it a tikli (another name for the piece of jewelry).
“NO Asos, it’s not a chandelier for your bloody head. It’s known as a ‘tikli’ in South Asian culture.
#sayitlikeitis,” she wrote on the social media site.
“I found it more frustrating than anything. It was a clear lack of knowledge on Asos’ behalf,” she tells Global News. “You can’t just blatantly take something from another culture and give no acknowledgment, that is highly offensive.”
Her tweet received several responses, some poking fun at the name choice, while others didn’t think it was a big deal at all.
“Earrings that resemble this sort of design are also called chandelier earrings, even in South Asia. So I dunno what the big deal is,” one user wrote.
“This is a tikli, not earrings. The observation here was that it’s been given a ridiculous name, nothing near to what it really is,” Haque replied.
The true cost of appropriation vs. appreciation
“These big companies get away with it again and again. I’d like to tell people to start understanding what cultural appropriation is and that’s it’s very much okay to make noise when you see it happening,” Haque says.
Haque, who is Bengali, says the piece of jewelry has several names in different South Asian cultures, but Asos had named it something entirely different.
Another social media critique came from Sharan Dhaliwal, editor-in-chief of Burnt Roti Mag, a publication celebrating South Asian talent based in London, U.K.
The site also does carry another headpiece called a “Orelia Semi Precious Festival Hair Tika,” which makes some wonder why this one was called a chandelier hair clip specifically.
How the small businesses feel
Big-box retailers have been guilty in the past of profiting from other people’s culture. Whether it’s Urban Outfitters making money from Native American art or Forever 21 selling Asian-inspired pieces labelled, “Oriental Girl Necklace,” this Asos example is just one of many. Urban Outfitters eventually ended up renaming their product.
But for small businesses and local designers who make South Asian jewelry, the problem isn’t seeing more pieces of jewelry like this in mainstream stores, it is the act of renaming them.
Karen Padda, co-founder and creative director of South Asian jewelry Boutique De Luxe based in Montreal says the tikka (or maang tika or jhoomar) also has many spiritual and religious connotations, and while today it is seen as a fashion accessory, the origins are still important.
“Large retailers should focus on the products that they know best. Even though jewelry originating from another country is simply jewelry, large retailers shouldn’t try to be ‘jack of all trades.'”
As of this writing, Global News has not received any response from Asos.