Yea or Nay: Charlotte Olympia Fall 2014 Bags

Posted on June 02, 2014

Charlotte-Olympia-Fall-2014-Bags-Accessories-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLO (1)Charlotte Olympia Fall 2014 “Shanghai Express” Collection

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[Photo Credit: Charlotte Olympia]

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  • sienna elm

    I love this collection!! All except for that first one…the first one looks like the aftermath of a clown that ate some bad spaghetti. That’s the purse of nightmares. All of the others are delightful!

    • I completely agree. I fear Spaghetti Clown.

    • Jessica Freeman

      I thought the collection was going to be a whole new level of shittery. I was pleasantly surprised it was not.

    • zenobar

      “…the aftermath of a clown that ate some bad spaghetti” – Liking this So Hard.

    • YousmelllikeAnnaWintour

      Yeah, I can’t unsee that. It looks like he’s barfing.

      • demidaemon

        Exactly my thoughts. Gross.

    • bitchybitchybitchy

      When I look at the first bag I think of how quickly that fringe would become totally annoying as well as picking up fuzz and dirt. Aside from that, there are some lovely looks in this collection. How much do these cost? Of course, if I have to ask, I can’t afford!

    • holla

      that is actually traditional Chinese opera face mask.

      • demidaemon

        I realized that, but this is a horribly rendered version.

    • TeacherH

      It’s a traditional Chinese opera mask. The fringe is his beard. Though of course on the actual mask the “beard” would be on the chin and not emerging like vomited spaghetti from the mouth. Awkward.

    • H2olovngrl

      Who knew there was such a thing as “purse of nightmares”? But there you go.

  • Victor Beiramar Diniz

    what’s with the ‘novelty bag’ trend?

    • Carleenml

      agreed. I don’t see anything very new or exciting here.

  • Jessica Freeman

    Mostly Yay. There is some really gorgeous bags in here.

  • @Biting Panda

    Yay. Who will be sending me the Panda bag?

    (PS – How do I, the Caucasian gal about town, not sport these bags without Cultural Appropriations daggers thrown my way?)

    • fursa_saida

      Not sure it’s possible, tbh. Is the designer herself Chinese? (I tried to look it up, was unsuccessful.) Because if not she’s gonna get the daggers too.

      It’s sad, because these are really pretty, and maybe some of them are less of a problem (like the koi one? But I’m really not knowledgeable enough about Chinese culture to say with any confidence), but…argh.

      • @Biting Panda

        I don’t think she (the designer) is.

        Frankly, the entire subject is one that I am not entirely comfortable about. I am a One World One Love type person. If I personally find beauty in the clothing and accessories (as well as food, traditions, etc) of other countries and cultures, I don’t always understand why enjoying them myself is a bad thing.

        From the time I was a very, very, small child, I’ve been drawn to Asian art and clothing. I believed in something like reincarnation before anyone ever thought to talk to me about the theory of. If a 4 yr old loves Kimonos because they are beautiful, but also because deep in her heart she feels she’s worn one before, is that wrong? If my soul feels at most peace with Eastern philosophies, is that wrong? If I want to wear clothing that I find beautiful and deeply reminiscent of a life I don’t actually recall, who is to say I am wrong?

        • Glam Dixie

          The whole cultural appropriation thing is just an extension of Political correctness taken to extremes. There are always exceptions, but a lot of times, both are unnecessary and silly.

          • Ginger

            Preach it, sister.

          • Kent Roby

            Thank you.

        • I don’t think anyone should shame you for being drawn to Asian styles and wanting to wear them yourself. I think it’s about doing it with awareness of Western-European history (broadly speaking; if you’re British and want to wear a sari, you should consider the effects of colonization of India, and especially how some Brits in power deliberately associated the Indians’ colorful clothing style with being low-class), and especially not taking it to parody level. Which I don’t think you would do. 🙂

          • Constant Reader

            This. Exactly.

          • Mim McDonald

            Hmm. I think you’d be surprised how many Brits have some Asian ancestry; I’ve got Indian and Burmese myself, though I look white. Should we shun these things altogether and erase that part of our history? Personally I’m in favour of acknowledging our mixed history and not whitewashing who we are as a nation. And nowadays, if a person’s going to, say, a Hindu wedding, it’s considered appropriate to wear a sari like the other female guests; it’s more respectful.

          • Again, it depends on context. If you’re attending a Hindu wedding, are good friends with the bride or groom, and they’re cool with you wearing their cultural clothes, knock yourself out. But if you look white and want to wear a sari (or, what’s become more popular these days: a bindi) to the mall or a disco (or, god forbid, a corporate party when you’re a middle-aged white woman, which I’ve seen), you should know that a lot of people are going to think you’re an asshole. As long as you’re cool with that.

            (The bindi fashion trend on white girls is particularly ridiculous, considering how actual Indians wearing it for religious reasons in Western countries have been targeted and bullied for decades.)

            Also I don’t think “whitewashing” makes sense in the way you used it. I did trip up when I referred to the “British” before as an apparent monolith of white people; obviously that’s not accurate, there’s lots of British Indians, etc.

          • Mim McDonald

            FWIW, I wouldn’t wear a sari in the UK, or a bindi at all. But in Myanmar I greatly regretted not dressing more in keeping with local custom, because while I did dress modestly, it was clearly very different, and mainstream modern Burmese ladies’ clothes would have been less obvious (NB, that’s *mainstream modern* not the traditional dress of any one ethnic group, I wouldn’t have gone out in, say, Pa O or Intha dress).

            I’ve never actually come across anyone wearing a bindi who isn’t south Asian; perhaps it’s not as common here. What’s your take on, say, a Western dress made of sari fabric?

            Re: whitewashing. We’ve got big problems in Europe now with a swing to the political right, and it scares me. As someone with mixed heritage, I’m aware of how mixed our history actually is, especially from the 18th century onwards, but British history is being rewritten more and more to be all white, all the time. That bothers me immensely.

          • Oh yeah, dressing in accordance with local styles (especially if there are certain expectations of modesty) is very sensible and appropriate, of course. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

            I’d heard about white girls wearing bindis for a while (there’s apparently a lovely hashtag for it: #bindiswag), but when I checked yesterday to confirm bindis have a religious significance for Indians, even the Wikipedia article has a section now on Modern Use, which explains how in the ’90s it was popularized in the West as a fashion accessory by Gwen Stefani, Julia Roberts, Madonna, and Selena Gomez.

            Western dresses made of sari fabric — I don’t know if I’ve seen such myself, but…I’m not aware of it being offensive. But I’m not Indian. I have heard of a fashion show where the clothes patterns used Australian aboriginal designs, and that’s a big no-no.

            I hear you about the scary right wing parties in Europe. Okay, I understand now what you mean by whitewashing. 🙂 Yes, that is a problem.

          • Mim McDonald

            Yeah, I’m acutely aware of the wrongs done in colonial Asia – it’s kind of weird having ancestors on both sides of the fence – and my husband and I went out of our way to dress and behave properly, take shoes off as required, and so on. The locals got a good laugh out of my terrible Burmese, but I think they appreciated the effort 🙂

            Dresses made of sari fabric weren’t uncommon post-WWII; rationing had made luxury fabrics hard to get in Europe, so returning servicemen would often bring lengths of cloth back for their ladies. I was tempted to buy fabric in Myanmar (obviously not in monk orange/ nun pink, though I did see one young nun with a Hello Kitty bag that matched her robes exactly!)

        • Qitkat

          Yes, yes, yes. You may recall a difficult conversation on this topic last fall in which I found myself in waters over my head, and you were kind enough to be supportive with my similar position. I love the way you have stated your thoughts here. I am in complete agreement.

        • formerlyAnon

          The line between acceptable and worthy of criticism is always in the eye of the beholder.

          Nope. Got nothing more helpful than that.

        • fursa_saida

          It’s not that one can never touch, so to speak. It’s that taking objects and images that have real meaning and significance and using them as decoration without any understanding or respect for that backgrounds is uncool. It’s about how a white person can wear traditional clothes from another culture and be seen as cool or edgy or creative, but someone from that culture will be ridiculed or denied opportunities.

        • Brigitte Coovert

          I think it’s because “Asia” is not one place that can be lumped together and enjoyed as a bulk item. I was raised Taoist, so I cringe when I see things like “my soul feels at peace with Eastern philosophies” because they is a lot of stark contrast between religions (or philosophies if you prefer) in “Asia.” Basically, it’s offensive, as are these handbags – to try and make a somewhat relevant comment. It’s not PC extremism when people are still walking around saying they like ASIA because it’s EXOTIC.

          • @Biting Panda

            Obviously I was speaking summarily. At the end of the day, this is a fashion blog (not my own) and often conversations, like this one, are friendly in this community, and spoken with a bit of short hand. I am loquacious enough without taking the time to specify and clarify my dogma, opinions and personal feelings.

            Regarding those who “walk around saying they like Asia because it’s exotic”, it can be extreme PC snark to not take into account, that they may be living a whitewashed life in middle America, where diversity is not the norm and what, or who, is their exotic may be your next door neighbor. Exotic is in the eye of the beholder, is it not? I am not someone who will ever feel that “exotic” is any kind of an insult. It’s a perspective. Nothing more.

            Thanks for your reply. I agree with @SayWhaaatNow:disqus that the very fact we all take the time to have these interactions here is a beautiful thing. Have a good one.

      • marlie

        I think it is possible, but it has to be in the right setting, and with the correct intent. I might sport one with the koi, or one of the ones with the beautiful geometric patterns, but some others might be too much of a stereotype for me.

        • fursa_saida

          Yeah, the geometric ones are great and probably not so worrisome.

    • Kent Roby

      A smiling panda with a bamboo shoot; you just don’t get much cuter than that.

      • Fuchsiaforever


      • DuBey2

        And I heard that Ronald McDonald was also quite offended by the Moschino line (?Spring ‘a14?)

      • gloriana232

        ? Chinese take-out isn’t served in containers like that in Canada, home of some of the largest Chinese communities outside China.

    • Rhonda Shore

      the Panda bag looks like the WWF logo.

    • kimmeister

      At the same time, it’s interesting that no one would throw such daggers my way, because I am Asian (but not Chinese).

    • sugarkane105

      I’ll fight you for it! 🙂 Though I wouldn’t be too upset if I had to defer to any of the other ones. Almost all of them are really beautiful.

    • TeacherH

      Whereas I think that as someone Asian, I’d look even more idiotic with these bags than if I were of a different ethnicity. At least other Asians would look at me askance. The geometric ones would be ok, but the take out container? The panda? The lamp with the fringe? They look like the kind of thing six-year old Asian kids get in tacky souvenir stores in Chinatown.

    • I love the lotus one, so why can’t I express my love of flowers because I am not Asian?

  • Jeremiah Capacillo

    Pretty, but culture appropriation attack magnets.

    • Mary Stone

      Yep. I’d have to agree. As lovely as they are, they are straight rip-offs of very traditional Chinese art forms, the snuff bottle is completely recognizable, as is “ming vase.” — it’s one thing to be inspired by another culture and to reference that inspiration. Quite another to literally write your name on a straight rip-off of it.

      • Nexli B

        Why is it a bad idea to say “I love the shape and beauty of a snuff bottle, wouldn’t that be a cute handbag”?? Surely no one thinks she’s saying she invented the snuff bottle, but she is certainly showing us the design in a new way.

  • LipstickForPigs

    I’m so in.

  • NMMagpie

    LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE. The second clutch is giving me life.

  • Latin Buddy

    Ok, we may be bitter but also smart kitten, can we please discuss the bright line between aesthetic (fashion) appreciation and cultural misappropriation? For example, I am a Mexican gay man and I don’t really get offended if (when) I see a white girl wear folkloric traditional Mexican women’s dresses (think Frida Kahlo).

    • I think it’s really about the context…who’s doing the wearing, and the situation. The most clear-cut example is the white person wearing American Native clothes for Halloween. But I’m certainly hesitant to say non-Asians can’t carry these. Maybe it does depend who the designer is — who’s actually profiting from Chinese designs.

    • imspinningaround

      My metric would be it’s OK as long as the wearer isn’t parodying the culture she’s drawing from. Obviously, I think that requires a bit of self awareness, research, and knowledge of the culture you’re representing.

    • aesteve212

      I draw the line with religious items that have that context removed (see: any non-Amer Indian person with a headdress on). The first bag twitches the line for me – I’m not a fan when the design inspired by a culture is essentially an image of a person from that culture. Granted this bag might be representing a mask, not a person, but it reads as “off” to me.

      • marlie

        The first one is really the only one that bothers me at all. The rest range from kitschy to beautiful, though.

      • Constant Reader

        Agreed. And Native Americans have been politely asking people to stop it with the ironic headdresses and phony sweat lodges. If someone from another culture asks you (or your cultural group) to stop, stop.

      • TeacherH

        The yin/yang is the religious symbol in the bunch. It is Taoist. But that train left the station ages ago, and it doesn’t seem to bother anyone to use it.

        • TeacherH

          Oh, and the pink lotus flower. Buddhist symbol of rebirth.

          The more I look at these, the more it is clear that the designer has very little understanding of Chinese culture, history, or religion, and just threw of hodgepodge of “Chinese-ish” things together. Pandas, vases, dragons, take out boxes (which are American, not Chinese), opera masks, plus a couple of accidental religious symbols.

          I wasn’t sure how I felt when I first saw it, but now I’m getting increasingly annoyed.

      • demidaemon

        It doesn’t help that the actual design of the bag actually damages the inspired object, as it looks less like a Chinese opera mask and more like someone having a bad night after eating bad Italian food.

    • a_liking

      I have a problem with collections like these because it seems like she’s saying CHINA!!! LET’S TAKE ALL THE STEREOTYPED IMAGES OF CHINA AND MAKE THEM INTO CUTESY BAGS!!! like, I’m pretty sure these aren’t even close to real traditional products from China. and so the issue for me isn’t really with the wearer IMO but the designer who is theoretically trying to sell this aesthetic – the designer who is basically saying “this is what I think China is and I’m going to profit off of it.” it’s different from someone wearing traditional Native dress, I think.
      but I would DEFINITELY have a problem with someone wearing these as part of some sort of bizarre “Asian lady” costume.

    • formerlyAnon

      *My* discomfort starts where aesteve212 puts it – religious items/iconography used purely as decorative motifs/accessories/garments. But I’m not actually consistent, since some-but-not-all of my own culture’s religious iconography seems perfectly o.k. to me when used as such. I also am often moved to amusement at those who deck themselves head to toe in the garb of a culture not their own – and even more so if they area attempting to adopt a culture’s moral ethos (as they perceive it) or religious practices, but I also feel a bit guilty when it’s obvious that they are completely sincere. Because who am I to say what you can like and what resonates with you?

      I think cultural appropriation is too often a knee jerk response – especially in an increasingly multicultural world, where we may be exposed to many different cultures to varying depths of understanding. But that doesn’t mean that “borrowed” or adopted motifs, literal objects, etc. are always inoffensive even if they are not meant to be so.

      As I said elsewhere today, the line between acceptable and worthy of criticism is always in the eye of the beholder. Collectively we can perhaps reach consensus on a ballpark idea of where the line rests, but not any closer than that.

  • deelup

    Pretty. But they look like souvenirs from Epcot.

  • Allison Angier

    Oh heavens YEA! Especially the little pink “carton” with the bugs. As
    for culture appropriation, I am confused. Perhaps we can talk about
    where the line is between exposing, sharing, spreading influences, and
    just being offensive?

    • SewingSiren

      The take out box is a USAmerican design over 100 years old. Originally designed for oysters

      • Allison Angier

        @SewingSiren I did not know that about the design (this is why I love reading the comments at TLo). I found out a while ago that the boxes are designed to break out into a bowl-like shape to make them easier and more convenient to eat out of. I have not tried this yet, however.

      • Ginmaru

        Love you madly for knowing that!

      • TeacherH

        Yes, and has anyone seen such take-out boxes outside of the US? Because I once watched a Canadian anthropologist go into raptures of delight when she saw one in San Francisco. She thought they only existed in HOllywood movies and never thought she’d see one for real.

        I know that they don’t use them in China. (At least not as of a few years ago.)

    • Kent Roby

      I think it’s one of those things where you can just sense when it’s in bad taste, like those hideous “native” costumes the ice dancers wore several years ago. I see no problem with any of these personally. Then again, I have made/worn a Chinese costume (for Mardi Gras) with a headpiece that included a 15-foot-tall take-out box and 20-foot-long chopsticks, so I may not be the best person to determine appropriateness.

      • marlie

        I kind of want to see a picture of that.

        • formerlyAnon

          Kind of? How about DESPERATELY want to see a picture of that?!

      • bitchybitchybitchy

        I remember those ice dancing costume and what an enormous faux pas they were. I would love to see photos of that headpiece!

  • gabbilevy

    IN (with notes to problematic cultural appropriation, which I mostly think comes across as a knee-jerk WE’RE ANGRY ABOUT EVERYTHING reaction, rather than an honest response to a real issue) … however, can I just say how irritating I find it that these are shot as to be barely visible? I had to squint to see what was going on for half of those bags because they blend in completely to the background.

  • Alanna

    Sure, each one of them is big enough for M.I.L.K., but where would I put the book(s) I need to carry with me at all times in case I get bored?

  • Vegas Girl

    I’m ok with most of them. I really love the one with the fish on it.

  • Jennifer Bober

    I like some of them, but man, can we say “cultural appropriation” boys and girls?

  • Some of them are goofy as hell, but I love the colors. The fan bag wants to come live with me, I can tell.

  • ChelseaNH

    They definitely got better as I scrolled down, and then the panda won me over.

    • kimmeister

      I was predisposed to dislike them after I saw the first one, but #3 won me over.

  • BlairBear

    Half nay half meh.

  • Coco Cornejo

    Ugh! OUT!

    It’s a cheap looking rendering of all the stereotypical Oriental imagery from 100 years of dime novels warning about the yellow menace.

  • Kent Roby

    I was expecting the worst of Etsy crafting, but there’s some real cleverness and style to this collection. Is the Coy bag clear acrylic? If so, it would look pretty terrible with anything in it.

    • Ginmaru

      Maybe a fuzzy Nemo toy? 🙂

  • Danielle

    Yes, hi. Is this the table where I sign up to sell my kidney for that panda clutch? Over there? Thanks.

  • Lori

    Some of these are really good and some of them look incredibly cheap, and not in a “fun” way. What is up with that?

    • kimmeister

      The pink one with the frog clasps just looks like a makeup bag.

      • Lori

        That was my first thought, and not even a particularly good make-up bag. Same goes for the one with the yellow ears. I’m not sure which is worse, those or the first one with the pom poms that are pure kindergarten art project. A line is well passed shameless when they’ll charge Charlotte Olympia prices for stuff that looks like that.

  • AC Simons

    I love all of these. I am fascinated by Asian art, especially old snuff bottles. This is a beautiful collection.

  • conniemd

    Yea. But what great fashion designer in the sky decided that the new bags must all be supercutesey overdecorated designed to look like animals and other objects? These are at least more whimsical, so they get may yea.

  • V No Privacy

    85% yea

    • Dan_In_NYC

      Exactly my thoughts.

  • Sarah

    YAY! I love this stuff. I wish there didn’t have to be a chinese-food carton, because that’s been done, and the vase confuses me, in addition to #1, but I love me some Chinoiserie, so I’m down for the rest of it.

  • latina fey

    i’m not sure if i’m not supposed to like these because of cultural appropriation, but i LOVE THEM. the only one i was ‘meh’ about was the takeout container. done a billion times over and kinda tired. but the rest? NEED.

  • I love a bit of blatant orientalism as much as the next white girl, so it’s a YAY from me.

  • RussellH88

    Besides the vomiting Samurai, I think these look pretty awesome.

  • Alyssa

    I like a lot of these…not the first one though. And I super want the fan one!

  • Gingerahoy

    Nay, complete and utter cultural appropriation alert. Ick ick ick.

  • geans

    Very yea!

  • Glam Dixie

    There are both Yea and Nay mixed in here together to my eye.

  • Imasewsure

    I was NO NO NO NO until I saw that pink Chnese take out bag which I love unreservedly…. still NAY to this overly literal collection though

  • Sweetvegan

    Overall, nay, although there may be some pieces (koi purse, panda purse) that are OK. She’s not influenced by Chinese culture; she’s stolen it. When it’s this literal, it’s cultural appropriation.

  • Fuchsiaforever

    Nay! Been there done that. Tired of these motifs. I mean they are nice but, does not rock my world. Maybe for a girl in her teens or 20’s. It’s like expensive versions of the stuff you can find at Pearl River Mart….(which I love but which cost a small fraction of these).

    • ktr33

      YES! Pearl River all the way

      • Fuchsiaforever

        you know what I’m talking about…

  • KateShouldBeWorking

    As a white lady, I don’t think is be comfortable carrying half these bags. As a broke lady, I don’t think it’ll be a problem.

  • yethica

    I dunno… it all looks sort of cheaply made to me…

  • ktr33

    I adore one and only one, 3rd one down, that looks like a ceramic perfume flacon. That’s a yay, the rest is a nah.

  • Some are major duds, but that koi fish purse is making me hoot at it like a construction worker on Designing Women.

  • Cheryl

    Some yay, some nay. I’m bi-racial, does that mean I could carry the bag for half a day, and for the other half, I’d be culturally inappropriate?

  • BobStPaul

    Rounding, I get 25% yea and 75% nay.

    • demidaemon

      That’s about where I am at.

  • Daisy Walker

    IN. I especially like the shapes and play of colors in the last one.

  • colorjunky

    I like all of them except the yin/yang one, too cliche.

  • marlie

    Many of these are really lovely. But some veer a little to close to the line between being inspired by and being a caricature of something.

    • Gatto Nero

      Agree. The mock take-out container and a few others are a bit cringe-making.

    • I’d rather have something from Shanghai Tang. Not as cute, but wittier interpretations of traditional Chinese design elements.

    • yethica

      They feel a little like flat-out cultural appropriation, don’t they?

      • marlie

        Especially the first one, and the takeout box one.

  • katarama

    Love. I can see the polemically correct implications, but I think ti’s all it what you choose to wear with them. A cheongsam, god no. black pencil skirt and simple thin sweater, yes…

  • As usual, the bags are witty and inventive in theme and execution, save for the first one, which is just…..I don’t know…..inexplicably bad compared with the others. YEA.

  • altermyego

    This is how you give a pop of color to a black outfit. Gorgeous, stunning colors!

  • Nicole

    Yea! Some of these are charming and cute, and others are just gorgeous! I love that they reinterpreted their theme in so many ways.

  • Dagney

    yes please.

  • LaSylphide

    Yea. Minimum of cutsie, and most of them are very pretty.

  • Annmarie Kane

    Just take my money, hand over the bags and no one gets hurt.

  • Alexis Wenceslao

    These somehow look that it came from a Kenzo collection.

  • quiltrx

    YEA! Some of these are just amazing. I want the lotus and the yin-yang SO hard. Oh to be famous and rich with clothes to match my bag.

  • lalahartma

    For the most part – no.

  • B_C_J

    YEA! beautiful & whimsical.

  • DuBey2

    LOVE 2,4,7 and the Final bag. Art.

  • Megan Kennedy

    Yin-yangs, koi, takeout containers and pandas? These were on every t-shirt from the Delia*s catalog circa 1999.

  • holla

    they look like toys I had when I was a kid. the panda one is super cute though.

  • Anplica Fiore

    I’ll take the Panda & the Take out bag. 🙂

  • crash1212

    Not sure I understand how the vase works as a purse. These are beautiful/fun.

  • @Biting Panda

    What a lovely response. Thank for taking the time to comment with such clarity and intelligence. I appreciate your thoughts, very much.

    • SayWhaaatNow

      Thank you for taking the time to read it! : )

      On that note, can I just say how refreshing it is to see discussions like these inspired on a fashion blog? The fact that commenters here are even questioning the cultural appropriation of items like these bags and having discussions about it is remarkable. This is a great community!

  • Qitkat

    It’s as if Etsy won a trip to Swarovski and stopped off at the Chinese New Years’ parade along the way.

    I do love several of these, particularly the ones with “faces,” so it is Yea from this BK.

  • Paula Pertile

    Love the lantern; love the take-out box, but wish it wasn’t pink.

  • Jacqueline Wessel

    I love some of these, especially the cinnabar clutch and the yin/yang one. I’d say no the faces on bags though.

  • formerlyAnon

    Nay AND Yea, mostly nay. They look – not cheap – but unsubtle considering the price point.

  • Monabel

    Orientalist cliches, cheesily executed. Nope.

  • mixedupfiles

    I have an Indonesian acquaintance who’s bothered by people hanging gamelan puppets on their walls — not because he’s offended, but because they’re hanging bad-spirit puppets and he worries they’re bringing trouble to their living space. And sometimes non-Buddhists hang prayer flags on their porches, just for the colorful appeal. But those flags are part of a specific religious practice. They carry symbolic meaning and they’re to be hung in particular ways. I don’t know that Buddhists are offended by such use of the flags, but it seems disrespectful nonetheless to view their meaning as irrelevant.

    Taking inspiration from a culture isn’t necessarily disrespectful, but it’s a good idea to seek a balance in one’s interest in the attractive thing and one’s interest in the culture it comes from. What kind of meaning does the item carry? A Chinese take-out bag is probably just a silly bag. But if you have little interest in the question, perhaps go another direction.

  • decormaven

    Big vintage vibe for me. Appealing, but not enough to qualify a thumbs-up. Out.

  • ThaliaMenninger

    Good heavens, NO.

  • kategs

    I unabashedly adore them all. so yea!

  • TeacherH

    Thank you, SayWhaaatNow!

    The more I look at this collection, the more it looks like a case of “taking the shiny parts [of a culture] and leaving the rest behind.” It reads like a bunch of things that felt “Chinese” and looked pretty to the designer, who has very little understanding of Chinese religion, history, or society.

    Here’s what I see:

    – a lotus flower, which is the Buddhist symbol of rebirth. Would you know that from the purse?

    -a Yin/Yang , Taoism’s central symbol. Anciient – maybe 2500 years old.

    – the tiger face (with the yellow ears) is borrowed from baby shoes . Symbolizes the hope that the baby will grow up strong and robust like a tiger.

    – A chrysanthemum (red purse) symbolizing nobility. One of the four noble plants symbolizing Confucian virtues. (Where are the other three?). In Chinese paintings since the Song Dynasty (1000 years ago.)

    – The insects on the take-out container look like the ones that are embroidered on baby quilts to symbolically protect the child from poisonous bites and other dangers. (The take-out container itself is American, not Chinese.)

    – A Ming vase, which reminds me of Britain’s 19th century obsession with Chinese products… which led to the opium trade and the Opium Wars.

    – A red lantern, which symbolizes joy and festivals.

    – A Chinese traditional opera mask, which has some symbolic meaning from its features, headdress, and coloring. Don’t know what it is, but someone who knew their opera would.

    And some other stuff, some of which is not symbolic at all (like the frog closures), but just ‘Chinese style.’ None of it goes together, except that they symbolize “China” in the mind of some Westerners. Some of it comes from thousands of years ago, some of it from 100 years ago.

  • The chinoiserie gets pretty literal in a few cases, but these are mostly cute and fun. Some pieces for younger gals and a couple for more mature women.

  • SophieCollier

    YEA YEA YEA A thousand times, YEA! I love these!

  • VioletFem

    YEAH. I want the whole collection!

  • Man Dala

    I say YEA to most of them, except the ones with facial hair. I love the ones with mandala designs — for obvious reasons.

  • SorayaS

    The first one is hideous and the Chinese take-away one is tacky but I surprisingly do not mind the rest.

  • Sophie

    I like most of these, though the blue and white vase one seems rather impractical, and the take-away box with critters rather stereotypical. (And the Beijing opera mask ones is just ugly.) But really, I’d love to have some of these.

  • annla

    Yea. Love them all.

  • demidaemon

    I don’t mind the rectangular printed clutches, but the rest seem tacky and appropriated, as well as ugly. YEA to the former, NAY to everything else.

  • Emily Roach

    NAY! Way too much novelty.

  • Sif

    Yay! How can you say no to a Panda bag

  • Coralie Legister


  • PeaceBang

    My reaction to most of them was, “Oh yea, I was in a production of ‘The Mikado’ in college, too.”

  • karonf

    My personal rule where fashion is concerned is accents from other cultures can work but stay away from costumey or imitating traditional dress. For example I’d wear the blue octagon bag with jeans and a red cardigan but never with a cheongsam. I grew up in the American West so I’d wear a silver Navajo squash blossom necklace but never anything Native American with feathers and those have specific meanings. I actively avoid religious motifs as wearing another culture’s gods as fashion just strikes me as really bad karma.

    • I think that is a good rule of thumb. For example, I wear flicky black cats eye eyeliner pretty much every day of my life. The exception is when I have worn an ao dai or cheongsam-inspired dress or top, because I would hate anyone to think I was doing yellowface.

  • Melissa Mendes

    Cultural appropriation….of the 90s.

  • save_the_hobbit

    I need that lotus one immediately.

  • altalinda


  • Lola

    Oh, how lovely. Orientalism & Cultural Appropriation at it’s finest.

  • MissAmynae

    Yay, Yay, a thousand times yay! This is almost as good as the Zodiac Collection.

  • marlie

    The example you provided is really excellent. I would side with the woman in the second photo; I sometimes wear a cross or a crucifix, but it’s specifically when I’m feeling spiritual or want to “proclaim” my faith in some way. I think the rationale that the first woman has is offensive to people who DO still believe. Like, I’d never wear a Star of David just for the sake of “fashion,” because I recognize that it is one of the most predominant symbols of the Jewish faith, and I would be doing a disservice to it by wearing it if it’s not something that I believe in.

  • MilaXX

    I’m about 50/50 on these. Some are beautiful and others are side eye worthy.

  • gloriana232

    Thank you for writing this very eloquent response after the “I don’t understand how this is bad” posts. I’m going to remember the way you’ve worded it here to explain myself to others if/when I’m asked.

    It took me a while to explain to some people why a bar in London, England, decorated with a pastiche of Chinese objects and called “Opium” (even opened by British-Chinese) was staggeringly ignorant and would stir incredibly negative feelings among many Chinese. My feelings are not simply “political correctness.”