Indians Saw Their Common Daybed at a Posh Store. It’s Fifty Times Pricier.

But it’s not the only ordinary Indian product that high-end brands are selling at an extraordinary price. 

03 September 2021, 12:27pm

We live in an age where everything from our TV shows to our fashion to our online courses are often ripped off from their OG inspirations. Yet, it continues to baffle us when we see high-end brands selling everyday items at an inflated rate, sprinkling flowery language and trendy keywords to drive up the price tag. 

Now, Annabelle’s, a home decor store in New Zealand, has left Indians shook with their “vintage Indian daybed,” available for NZ$800, which converts to Rs 41,000 ($560). Except that this same bed is one of the humblest and most affordable household items found across India. Locally called a “charpai,” this lounge bed is a fixture in nearly every Indian home, and can be bought for as cheap as Rs 800 ($10). 

Naturally, Indians did what they do best and took to Twitter to troll the company selling this ordinary item at an extraordinary price. 

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But, it turns out, there’s a reason for the mark-up.

“I clearly have not been frequenting the right markets because I purchased the daybed from my supplier in Jodhpur for NZ$225 ($160),” Annabelle Plowman, the founder of the store, told VICE. “There are also a series of other charges. For example, I pay my supplier in Jodhpur $3185 to pack my 40-foot containers. The freight to New Zealand is $9,583. And pre-COVID, I would travel to India to meet with my suppliers. By the time I factor in these costs, the daybed has cost north of about NZ$400 ($285) before it reaches New Zealand.” 

While shipping costs and business negotiations could explain why such a typical item transcended its otherwise humble stature, it’s not the first time someone has tried to hype up a charpai. In 2017, a tweet showing a similar ad for a $990 charpai in Australia also left Indians perplexed. 

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

But daybeds aren’t the only things being sold at significantly higher prices in the West or by luxury designer brands. Here’s a bunch of other classic Indian items that have received the high-end treatment – and the price tag that comes with it. 

Balenciaga’s grocery bag

Just days ago, high fashion brand Balenciaga displayed its big Barbes East-West shopper bags, priced at $2090 (Rs 150,000). The brand heralded the bag as an Italian-made product with calf skin leather and a luxury appeal. However, many Indians thought it looked exactly like the common plastic “pishvi” or grocery bags they carry vegetables and other stuff from the market in, right down to its colours and chequered pattern.

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

Zara lungis

Street style brand Zara isn’t exactly known for its originality. But in 2018, the fashion retailer came under fire for displaying a “check mini skirt” they described as a “flowing skirt with draped detail in the front.” It was selling this skirt for $89. Then, someone pointed out that it was literally a lungi, a traditional Indian cloth garment that usually retails for about $5. The same garment is also called a sarong in Indonesia and a pelikat in Malaysia – basically anything but a check mini skirt. 

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

Still, that didn’t stop other highbrow brands from trying to appropriate the lungi into a luxury version, with a New York-based brand called The Lungi Project even selling sustainable lungis made from flax and linen for $175. 

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

Gucci kurtas and turbans

Gucci grabbed eyeballs for the wrong reasons when it described a dress that looked exactly like a traditional Indian kurta as a “kaftan.” And when people realised the luxury brand was trying to sell this everyday garment that usually costs around $6 for $3,500, they flipped out. 

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

In 2019, Gucci also came under fire for appropriating the Sikh turban, a religious head covering, into a high fashion alternative they termed the “Indy turban.” They further pissed people off by pricing it at a whopping Rs 56,076 ($800).

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

Follow Shamani on Instagram and Twitter.

Tagged:

Balenciaga, Gucci, Social Media, NEW ZEALAND, Cultural Appropriation

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