Zara is Now Selling a Traditional South East Asian Sarong and People Are Losing It

Are they trying to make the lungi go mainstream?

Is there any piece of clothing that can transition from the rice fields of south India to the cobblestones of London’s Oxford Street? According to Zara, yes—the lungi.

Anyone who’s grown up on the Indian subcontinent—which encompasses India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and the Maldives—or nearby countries like Myanmar and Thailand would be familiar with this wardrobe staple (pronounced loongi). A thin cotton sarong skirt worn primarily by men in rural areas and villages as well as on city streets, it’s one of the few garments that’s tolerable to wear in the hot and humid climate of these tropical countries.

Photography via DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY/AFP/Getty

But the fine folks over at Zara are of the belief that the lungi can be just at home on the streets of London, which is why they’ve just added a “check mini skirt” with a remarkable resemblance to the sarong to their UK website. (In its countries of origin, it’s worn knotted or tied in various ways, and is usually seen in a check or striped print, in colours ranging from brown and khaki to blue and yellow.) Needless to say, Twitter is losing it over this bizarre clashing of worlds. Reactions range from disbelief at seeing something their grandfather has worn for decades modeled by a woman on one of the world’s leading fast fashion websites, to outrage at—once again—another sign of cultural appropriation, to incredulity at a $3 garment retailing for over $100.

To someone who’s seen the humble lungi in its natural environment in India, draped around the waists of men working amid the rubble of construction sites, knee-deep in water in paddy fields or lounging at home, the sheer absurdity of it being branded as “trendy” and modeled with high heels makes it more laughable than offensive. Zara, stop trying to make the lungi happen.