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Gucci accused of cultural appropriation for selling £600 'Indy Turban'

Critics pointed out that the turban is a Sikh article of faith 'not a cute fashion accessory'

Sarah Young
Thursday 16 May 2019 10:55 BST
'We need more diversity in boardrooms', says Chinyere Ezie who brought Prada 'blackface' display to light

Gucci has been accused of cultural appropriation for selling a £600 turban at luxury department store Nordstrom.

The garment, which Gucci refers to as an “Indy Full Turban”, first stoked criticism in February 2018 when it debuted at the Italian fashion house’s autumn/winter show.

Now, after shoppers spotted the product being sold online, the controversy has been ignited once more.

The headpiece, which is now sold out on Nordstrom’s website, was listed as costing $790 (£615) and described as a “gorgeously crafted turban” that will “turn heads while keeping you in comfort as well as trademark style”.

On Twitter, numerous people expressed their concerns over the headpiece, particularly in terms of the brand and its customers not appreciating the turban's deep religious significance.

Also known as a dastaar, the turban is a headpiece worn by the Sikh community (but may be used by other groups) as an article of faith and carries an immense spiritual and temporal significance.

Traditionally in Sikhism, a turban is worn by both men and women as a symbol of piety, honour and spirituality.

It is because of this that many critics called out both Gucci and Nordstrom for using the religious article to “fill their pockets”.

“Dear @gucci, the Sikh Turban is not a hot new accessory for white models but an article of faith for practising Sikhs,” one person wrote on Twitter.

Another person added: “ “The turban for #Sikh is a matter of faith and not another decorative piece.

“RESPECT Religious sentiments while thinking of filling your pockets.”

The New York-based Sikh Coalition also condemned the high-fashion brand on Twitter, writing: “The Sikh turban is not just a fashion accessory, but it’s also a sacred religious article of faith.

“We hope more can be done to recognise this critical context.”

Others pointed out that the product was particularly offensive because Sikhs often face criticism and even violence for wearing a turban in western spaces.

“Hey @Nordstrom and @gucci: this is inappropriate! The turban is a Sikh article of faith, not a cute fashion accessory,” one person wrote on Twitter.

“Considering the amount of discrimination turban-wearing Sikhs regularly undergo, please reconsider selling this product.

Another person agreed, adding: “This is beyond aggravating. Did someone at @gucci even bother to figure out what a dastaar (turban) means to Sikhs? Did it cross your minds to consider the history behind our identity?

“My people are discriminated against, even killed, for wearing a turban.”

In February 2018, just days after the brand was first criticised for showing traditional Sikh turbans on its runway, a Sikh man had his turban ripped from his head in a racist attack while he was queueing outside Parliament in London.

This isn’t the first time Gucci has been embroiled in controversy.

In February, the brand was criticised after shoppers complained its $890 (£688) “balaclava jumper”, which features a cut-out at the mouth and red lips, resembled blackface.

“Haute Couture Blackface for the millennials???” one person wrote on Twitter.

Another added: “THIIIIIIIS is blackface guys. THIS. huge overdramatic red lips and a literal BLACK face. This is DISGUSTING. I don’t wanna see any of you with Gucci belts and slides after this.”

As a result of the backlash, Gucci issued a public apology “for the offence” caused and removed the item from its stores and website.

“We can confirm that the item has been immediately removed from our online store and all physical stores,” the company said in a statement.

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“We consider diversity to be a fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected, and at the forefront of every decision we make.

“We are fully committed to increasing diversity throughout our organisation and turning this incident into a powerful learning moment for the Gucci team and beyond."

The Independent has contacted Gucci and Nordstrom for comment.

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