A few weeks ago, one of the world’s largest fashion houses, Gucci, revealed it’s fall 2018 line at Milan’s fashion week. As the models prepared to walk out, the audience observed what I would call one of the largest oversights, and examples of cultural appropriation of all time. Gucci models took to the runway wearing turbans, headscarfs ressembeling hijabs, and head pieces shaped like east-asian architecture. With the whole world watching, Gucci presented “new wave fashion”, the only thing is, for the cultures these pieces originally came from, the garb is part of a long a rich history that has defined culture for centuries.
Specifically, Gucci’s use of the turban has caused many followers of the Sikh religion have been vocal about the use of what Sikhs consider a core element of their religion. In the Sikh religion, there are five articles of faith that all Sikhs are obligated to wear. The symbols represent the ideals of Sikhism: honesty, equality, fidelity, meditating on God and never bowing to tyranny. One of these articles is uncut hair. Sikh men will cover their uncut hair with a Dastaar, or turban. The turban is a pivotal part of the Sikh identity, and to the men who wear it, serves as a representation of the values of their religion and beliefs.
However in a post 9/11 world, many Sikhs were targeted with hate crimes, from islamophobic individuals, who mistook the turban as symbol of islam, and not sikhism. In August 5, 2012, a mass shooting took place at a gurdwara (Sikh temple) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, were a whit supremacist committed the hate crime, killing six, and injuring four. Only a week after the Milan show, a Sikh man was attacked outside of Parliament in London, where an individual attempted to rip the man’s turban off, yelling “Muslim go back.”
Gucci’s lack of consideration of the struggle many Sikhs face wearing a symbol of their beliefs in society, and the fashion house’s lack of respect for the the religious ties to the turban are extremely unacceptable. Cultural appropriation is not new, and for centuries, minority groups have seen essential elements of their culture and religion taken from them, and repackaged as a trend. Often, the things taken from these culture were at one time used as reasoning to ostracize, and segragate the very same minority groups, and classified them as “other.” It is hurtful to watch Gucci’s line be praised as innovative, when I have watched my community be hurt by hatred for the very same thing. If Gucci wanted to produce a line of turbans, and used Sikh models to represent the turbans correctly, I would have praised the line, as by during so Gucci would be appreciating rather than appropriating the turban.
I hope that in the future, companies, and fashion houses are more aware of the effects cultural appropriation can have on individuals of a culture, and realize that they have the power to show turbans in a light where those who wear them are celebrated and recognized for their culture and religion. By showing Sikh individuals in a place in popular culture, like a runway, stigmas of who Sikh people would hopefully be absolved, and show young Sikhs that they too can be more than what society currently sees them as.