About Cultural Appropriation

Recently we have been called out on social media for our extensive catalog of patterns that originate in the folk cultures of Asia and Southeast Asia. We appreciate this calling out.

Let's be honest - Folkwear develops and sells patterns based on garments from folk traditions from around the world. Many of these traditions are not our own. We do this in the belief that these are more than just clothing patterns. We hope to inspire and provoke interest and understanding of the deeper value of how clothing has helped shape the world. We believe that sewing is made richer, and therefore more enjoyable, when you understand more about the garments you have been inspired to make - including their histories and cultures. The whole reason Folkwear exists is because of cultural appreciation. We are working to balance the historical cultural context of the patterns we sell and the very real objectification and othering that is experienced by the people who identify with the cultures that created these garments. We should, can and will do better. 

Some actions we are taking and will continue to take:

  • We seek to add any and all available attributions to the patterns we currently offer - many of which were developed in the early 1970s - and will continue this work.  Most of our patterns were developed in conjunction with individuals of the cultures they come from. This has been acknowledged in the pattern information within the printed and PDF patterns when available. Going forward we will be more clear about this on our website. We will make sure contributors/partners from other cultures are appropriately compensated for their time and effort in pattern development. 
  • We will add more diversity to our models. Our current images include models that are mostly family members. This is the reality of a very small company with a very small budget and a lot of loving family and neighbors who are happy to pose in a garment in exchange for an hour in the garden in a pretty dress. But we know we can do better. 
  • We will continue to work with the many cultural institutions and non-profit organizations that we currently support in efforts to uplift BIPOC makers and other communities.  We donate to organizations such as Global Fund for Women, Black Lives Matter, National Association for Black Veterans, Navajo Relief Fund, RAICES, Japanese American National Museum, etc. and will continue to do so. 

Once again, we welcome your feedback on our efforts. We thank those in the sewing community for urging us to do better. We do believe that to gain a true understanding and respect of all people, it is equally important to look a little deeper into the truths and realities of history. 

We would also like to recommend some writing on this issue by others in the sewing/craft world:

 Textiles Of The World: The Line Between Appreciation and Appropriation – Sewcialists (thesewcialists.com)

(1) When Does Cultural Appreciation Become Cultural Appropriation? | Yala Jewellery