No one said being a fashion designer was easy, but there’s one basic rule that really shouldn’t be that hard to remember: try not to piss off an entire religious/cultural/ethnic group. It seems pretty obvious that cultural appropriation isn’t cool in 2019, but apparently the people over at Gucci have forgotten…for the second time this year.
A few months ago, Gucci raised some major eyebrows when white male models in their Milan Fashion Week show were wearing turbans as accessories on the runway. There’s nothing wrong with wearing a hat, but people were upset that the accessories closely resembled the dastaar, the turbans worn by those in the Sikh religion. The turbans, which have deep significance in the Sikh faith, have been worn for hundreds of years.
Dear @gucci, the Sikh Turban is not a hot new accessory for white models but an article of faith for practising Sikhs. Your models have used Turbans as ‘hats’ whereas practising Sikhs tie them neatly fold-by-fold. Using fake Sikhs/Turbans is worse than selling fake Gucci products pic.twitter.com/sOaKgNmgwR
— Harjinder Singh Kukreja (@SinghLions) May 16, 2019
People were already upset about the accessories being worn on the runway, but last week, the turbans went up for sale on the Nordstrom website. Officially called the “Indy Full Turban”, the retail price was a casual $790. Yikes. Aside from the look of the turban, it’s an extremely bad look to rip off an Indian religion and then call the item “Indy.” I have many, many questions about how anyone at Gucci thought this was a good idea, let alone the dozens of people who must have approved this before it made it to the racks at Nordstrom.
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. pic.twitter.com/G62edSmjhf
— Aasees Kaur (@SouthernSikh) May 14, 2019
Like I mentioned before, this isn’t even the first time in 2019 that Gucci has caused major controversy over one of its designs. Back in February, there was an uproar over a turtleneck sweater that looked way too similar to blackface makeup. Also, it looks impractical and uncomfortable, but the main issue was the blackface.
View this post on Instagram
Fashion can’t seem to learn from its mistakes. Back in February 2018, dozens of iterations of the balaclava walked the @gucci runway in Milan. Based on vintage DIY knit ski masks, no one clocked them at the time for having any racist connotations…or maybe they went unnoticed among the layers and layers of styling. Rihanna even wore one version just a couple months later at Coachella. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Last night though, a knit black turtleneck balaclava with red cut-out lips resembling blackface that wasn’t on the runway, caught twitter’s attention…and Gucci’s almost immediately. Within a few hours, they pulled the sweater from sale and issued an apology. All things considered, it’s probably clear now that these brands are severely lacking the cultural context and knowledge to avoid these same pitfalls. If these global brands are serious about their commitment to increasing corporate diversity, it needs to happen at all levels and departments, not just the creative teams. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ • #gucci #skimask #fashion #knitwear #blackface #blackhistorymonth #luxury #luxurybrand #europeanfashion #turtleneck #balaclava #diy #knittingpattern #vintageknitting #pinterest #pinterestfail #rihanna #milanfashionweek #mfw #mfwss18 #ss18 #dietprada
In the wake of this scandal, Gucci immediately pulled the product from its site, and it issued what seemed like a very solid apology for what they had done. In his official statement about the controversy, the Gucci President and CEO acknowledged that the company was lacking “cultural diversity and awareness,” and committed to an ambitious plan to fix things. They announced that they were hiring “global and regional directors for diversity and inclusion,” as well as three different programs aimed at increasing representation and awareness moving forward.
As opposed to some other companies and designers, who have been defensive and/or dismissive when responding to issues like this (looking at you, Dolce & Gabbana), it really seemed like Gucci got the issue, and was committed to fixing things in the future. With this most recent drama with the turban, now I’m not so sure. Gucci has yet to release a statement about the new controversy, but Nordstrom has changed the name of the item to “Head wrap” and says that it’s sold out. Sure, Jan.
This is definitely not the first time that a fashion brand has made a completely avoidable blunder like this, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Just like we all know that it’s not appropriate to wear a Native American headdress to Coachella (I hope we all know this by now), brands like Gucci really should know better. Maybe now you’ll think twice before Instagramming that photo with your Gucci belt clearly visible.
Images: Getty Images; @Singhlions, @southernsikh / Twitter; @diet_prada, @gucci / Instagram