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Rituals under fire for cultural appropriation


TextAlex Peters

Bryanboy calls out the Dutch body care brand for its highly problematic new campaigns

Dutch spa and body care brand, Rituals, is under fire today for its new campaigns, in which different white models are seen in various cultural and traditional Asian dress and settings.

Fashion blogger Bryanboy called out the brand on his Instagram earlier today when he came across the campaigns while at the airport. “Dear @RitualsCosmetics,” he writes on the post, “will you please tell your marketing department as well as your corporate executives to look up what ‘cultural appropriation’ means? Are y’all so detached from today’s political climate? It’s 2018.”

Bryanboy goes on to write: “If you think your executives in the Netherlands may get away with putting a blue-eyed white girl in an Asian lewk, you’re wrong. This is just straight up cultural theft for marketing purposes. Taking advantage of a culture that doesn’t belong to yours. Using Asian sensibilities to promote products but an Asian model is clearly not worthy of working with.”

The campaign images can also be found across the brand’s website. Product collections with names including “Namasté,” “Holi,” “Happy Buddha,” and “Samurai,” all include imagery of white models dressed in traditional Asian costume. This campaign comes at a time when, despite continued calls for increased diversity, 67.5 percent of models who walked the runway for Fall 2018 fashion weeks were white. In 2016, The Fashion Spot’s annual study reported that of all the models featured in Spring 16 fashion campaigns, only 4% were Asian.  

Rituals, a brand founded by Dutchman Raymond Cloosterman in 1999, was created with the aim of building a brand based on European interpretations of the “wisdom and ancient traditions of Asian cultures” including that of India, China and Japan. Given this, these new campaign images aren’t surprising, but that in no way makes it acceptable. We expect better next time.

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