Several Indian social media users as well as Sikh commentators and organizations came down heavily on fashion brand Gucci for featuring a host of models wearing turbans in its show during the Milan Fashion Week on Feb. 21. They took to the social media over the weekend to express outrage at the “appropriation” of the religious headgear.
The models, who wore the turban at Gucci’s show for designer Alessandro Michele’s collection, were European. The turban, mainly worn by Sikh men to cover the knot of uncut hair they sport as an article of faith, has often elicited discriminatory response against them in western public spaces.
The outcry against Gucci on social media included comments such as:
The New York-based Sikh Coalition civil rights group tweeted on Feb. 23: “The Sikh turban is a sacred article of faith, @gucci, not a mere fashion accessory. #appropriation. We are available for further education and consultation if you are looking for observant Sikh models.”
Indian restaurateur Harjinder Singh Kukreja tweeted:
Several social media users pointed out that Sikhs are often discriminated and racially profiled because of the turban. Post 9/11, there were a lot of attacks that members of the Sikh diaspora were subjected to in the United States when they were mistaken for Muslims.
In response to Gucci’s fashion show, Tina Daheley, a British broadcaster born in a Sikh family, recalled an incident that happened last week to an Indian Sikh man in the United Kingdom, the Al Jazeera reported. The victim, who had been waiting outside the UK parliament in London to meet politician Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, was attacked by a man who tried to rip off his headpiece. The attacker shouted, “Muslim go back home.”
“While Gucci sends white models down the catwalk wearing turbans, a Sikh environmentalist has his turban ripped off outside parliament in a hate attack. As someone whose family has been on the receiving end of this sh** for decades, this is utterly depressing,” said Daheley.
International brands have frequently come under fire for cultural appropriation. Earlier in February, Zara was mocked for selling a checkered skirt that resembled a lungi, a garment worn by men in India. March Jacob was roundly criticized for featuring white models with dreadlocks.
An opinion piece written by Anu Lingala for Business of Fashion, who believes “binary, divisive reactions” get no one anywhere, argues: “The reality is that we live in a global society, one in which cultural exchange is inevitable and such exchanges are fraught with complications. When those in power borrow ideas from historically marginalized cultures without giving any credit to those who they are referencing, they are endangering the original cultural relevance of that idea.”