Why Gucci can't get it right when it comes to cultural appropriation

Posted by
Billie Bhatia
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Gucci have come under huge backlash for cultural appropriation again, this time for selling a £620 turban. 

Gucci have come under fire once again for cultural appropriation. This time the item in question is a blue turban from their autumn / winter 2018 collection that is now being sold for £620 ($790) on fashion site, Nordstrom.

The problem with the piece is its obvious resemblance and appropriation of Sikh culture, where the turban is both a hugely important religious and cultural symbol.

The headscarf, which was initially named “Indy Full Turban” has been renamed on the site since to “Indy Full Head Wrap”, made its debut in Milan on multiple white models. It was on this runway that the brand also featured their black balaclavas that came under fire not so long ago for resembling blackface. 

A model wears a turban in the Gucci autumn / winter 2018 show
A model wears a turban in the Gucci autumn / winter 2018 show 

The turban has sparked outrage, understandably so, among the Sikh community who have taken to Twitter to air their feelings towards both the brand and the turban in question. 

I don’t proclaim to be highly involved in the Sikh community, in fact I probably identify more with the Western community than my Indian routes. But part of my family are Sikh (which means part of me is Sikh) and I remember quite vividly the ritual my grandfather would undertake every morning when putting on his turban. It was sacrosanct, part of his identity as a Sikh man and as a child was the one thing I really identified him by.

Sikh men have long suffered prejudice and often faced violence in the western world, for wearing a turban. In February this year, just a few days after the Gucci turban was first debuted on their catwalk a Sikh man fell victim to a racist attack, whereby his turban was ripped from his head while he was queuing outside parliament in London. 

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It wasn’t so long ago that Gucci made a bid to be better when it came to its offering of clothing and accessories. After the hugely negative reaction to the Gucci balaclava, the company issued a statement: “We can confirm that the item has been immediately removed from our online store and all physical stores.”     

“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.”

If that’s the case, then what on earth happened here, Gucci?