Gucci Sikhs

International fashion brand Gucci has come under fire for using a turban as an accessory during the Fall/Winter 2018/2019 collection fashion show in Milan, including by an Indian American Sikh civil rights group. (Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)

Models sashaying down the runway sporting creations by Gucci during the brand’s Fall/Winter 2018/2019 collection at the Milan Fashion Week would’ve attracted the attention of fashionistas and those closely associated with the fashion world. However, one accessory that the luxury brand chose to accentuate its outfits has created a major furor.

The fashion giant put turbans – which is one of Sikh’s five articles of faith – as an accessory on a host of white models and is now drawing flak on social media. And not just turbans, it also used hijabs and elaborate headgears to showcase its collection.

The New York-based civil rights group Sikh Coalition tweeted: “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.”

San Jose, Calif-based Punjabi YouTuber, who posts videos under the stage name Gurpy Colors O, blasted the brand for using the Sikh religious symbol, calling the act “unacceptable and offensive.”

“Wearing another religions article of faith is not fashion, its appropriation! Sikh men are profiled and discriminated against every day for wearing a turban, yet when you put in on a white person, it’s suddenly fashionable and cool?! he wrote.

One Twitter user wrote that the Sikh turban is not a “hot new accessory” for white models but an article of faith for practicing Sikhs.

“Your models have used Turbans as ‘hats’ whereas practicing Sikhs tie them neatly fold-by-fold. Using fake Sikhs/Turbans is worse than selling fake Gucci products,” Ludhiana, Punjab-based Harjinder Singh Kukreja remarked.

Indo-Canadian model/actor Avan Jogia felt let down by the brand. “…This isn’t a good look for you... could you not find a brown model?”

In another related tweet, Jogia called upon people to break their silence. “and please, other people of color, this happens to ALL of us, say something even if it doesn’t apply to you personally. I got you, if you got me,” he wrote.

BBC journalist Tina Daheley shared her frustration via this tweet: “And 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.”

And not just the Sikhs, the act has reportedly upset people of other faiths as well.

“I’m not a practicing Sikh, but that kind of nonsense annoys me. It’s an important way of life for millions, it shouldn’t be reduced to an accessory on a runway,” one Twitter user wrote. “Same goes for the cross, the hijab and many other things.”

A small section of observers, however, did not find anything wrong with non-Sikhs wearing a turban. “I can’t understand your logic... You have turban days in New York and proudly create awareness of Sikh turban by tying turbans. What is wrong with models wearing it. I think they are sporting it in good spirit. @gucci please ignore this guy,” wrote a user who goes by the name of @thewrysingh.

Gucci is not the only brand that is being accused of engaging in cultural appropriation. Recently, people called out Zara for its $90 plaid “check mini skirt,” which was a refashioned lungi (see India-West story here).

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