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The 'justification' behind the #RefugeeDress is worse than the dress itself Open in fullscreen

Diana Alghoul

The 'justification' behind the #RefugeeDress is worse than the dress itself

The refugee dress has caused a stir online [UZI NYC]

Date of publication: 3 August, 2017

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Despite the unsettling nature behind the whole situation, UZI NYC’s defence of the refugee dress was the most problematic.
A New York based fashion company stirred controversy after their “refugee dress” became the centre of attention on Twittersphere.

Ten years after the release of the dress, Brooklyn based brand UZI NYC faced furious reactions after it resurfaced and rose to fame. People are not only angry at the insensitivity behind naming the dress, but the barbarisation of refugees and the commercialisation of their plight.

Some activists have even been blocked by the designers.

Despite the unsettling nature behind the whole situation, UZI NYC’s defence of the refugee dress was the most problematic.

“In 2007 we created a dress that was our vision of the future based upon the reality of what we saw around us,” a company spokesperson told The New Arab.

“We named the dress in 2007 when we could not see ourselves escaping the reality of a global economy spinning out of control. We feel that it is important to keep these issues within public discourse. [… ] We could have named the dress anything we wanted but then we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” the statement added.

They also claimed that they “have unintentionally offended some people with whom we share the same concerns, but in that process we have also been able to amplify our shared message.”

Apart from the fact that the statement had a saviour element, which is unhelpful and patronising, especially since all companies contribute to the capitalist global economy, the fact that they feel as though they are perpetuating the discourse on refugees has a troubling element to it.

Talking about refugees is something that is hardly swept underneath the rug. Politicians, media outlets and companies capitalise the plight of refugees routinely for their own gains, regardless if this is intentional or not. This leads to many inaccurate generalisations of the group, including the vilifying, infantilising, barbarising and even in some cases fetishising the plight of the refugee.

With their statement, in which they issued no apology despite promising to rename the dress, their justification did nothing but reiterate the problematic notions surrounding the refugee discourse.

It is not okay to disrespect the plight of refugees for the sake of "perpetuating the discourse", especially when the wrong one could lead to serious consequences.

The only way to respectfully discuss the plight of refugees is through using facts, directly defending them against those who show hostility towards them and tangibly helping them. Anything beyond such actions are disingenuous actions which go nothing beyond being self-serving.

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