Zara, Gucci and now Woolworths…

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By Nevali Mohan

This article is exclusive to the online Edition 1 of VARSITY Newspaper. 


Gucci’s 2018 Fall Ready-to-wear collection is under fire for cultural appropriation. This follows not long after Zara, too, was accused of selling lungi’s (traditional Sri Lankan garment) as skirts. The show featured a diverse cast of models whose artistic director’s aim was to promote the idea of ‘being you’ despite the plurality of pasts and futures. Some of the pieces included; models with painted ‘third eyes’, the use of a dragon as an accessory, and half-knitted balaclava. However; it was the use of the pagri (commonly known as the Sikh Turban) which was criticised, believed to be misrepresented in more ways than one.

The pagri was used in the showcase as a fashion accessory modelled by non-participants of the Sikh faith (as pictured above). The Sikh faith has been associated with honour since its inception. Sikh males are traditionally known to have longer length hair which is tied in a top knot. The head is the crown chakra of the body. The pagri is used to hold this top knot in place, protecting the crown chakra. Upon waking up daily, this ritual is practised. Furthermore; the disciplinal succession of gurus (teachers) of this faith wore a pagri. In light of this, for the participants of the Sikh faith, the pagri symbolises discipline and commitment to their faith. The legacy of the pagri is thus one of unity to all Sikhs.

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Fashion is known to draw inspiration in all facets of society, however, the translation of faith in religion is what causes the most uproar.  By using the pagri as an accessory of fashion, Gucci has not revered this article of faith justly. Models in the Gucci Fall/Winter collection are seen walking down a runway wearing the pagri with their hair exposed. Furthermore, their lack of association to the faith only resonates with the critique that it contributes to cultural appropriation.

A UCT student and participant of the Sikh faith calls for respect and understanding to this article of faith. Harjot Singh says: “It is a must for directors of the fashion industry to know what the Turban represents by choosing not to fashion it”. The Sikh diaspora continues to expand around the world. The multitude of Sikh models can attest to this. Perhaps these models can be cast the next time an influential brand like Gucci takes to the cat walk with the pagri. Woolworths has recently stocked the pagri in various prints and colours. The real question is; are you going to choose to fashion it too?   

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