Turban is not a fashion accessory, Sikhs remind Gucci

Now that the dust has settled on the baby dragons and severed heads that models carried in the Gucci show last week, the Italian design house is coming under fire, something that is becoming rather commonplace. The Kering-owned brand is on the hook – this time around – for using Sikh turbans as “fashion accessories,” and thereby, as some are arguing, disrespecting an item that is central to the Sikh identity.

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.

Gucci’s use of the turbans – which are worn as a headgear by many men and women in various countries, including non-Sikhs, as noted by a number of Twitter users – as a fashion accessory has been met with mixed opinions.

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.”

Twitter users, led by Sikh social activist and restaurateur Harjinder Singh Kukreja, have been debating Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele’s choice to include the turbans in his Fall/Winter 2018 collection, especially on white models.

A tweet posted by Singh Kukreja read, “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 practicing Sikhs tie them neatly fold-by-fold.” Kukreja continued on to note that “using fake Sikhs/Turbans is worse than selling fake Gucci products.

Leading ethnic media outlets echoed this notion, stating that as many religions and cultures across the world have distinct characteristics, “the turban for the Sikh culture” is a “customary symbol that has become [part of] their identity over the years.” It is a symbol, according to the publication’s columnist Avantika Chopra, that Sikhs are “often protective and sensitive about.”

No shortage of individual sided with Singh Kukreja in his distaste for the Gucci accessories. For instance, one Twitter user stated, “Gucci is appropriating [the turban] for no reason other than to get some buzz for their business.”

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.

Others, however, were not as put off. One Twitter user wrote in response to Singh Kukreja’s tweet, “I think its positive and creates awareness. They’re wearing them in a respectful way.” Another stated, “They are promoting wearing turbans. There is no vulgarity in their costume to disrespect the turban. We need to add on to the fashion statement with the values and reason that goes with the custom of wearing it.”

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

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