Dear Gucci: Cultural Appropriation Is Out of Style

Gucci’s fashion show that previewed its Fall 2018 collection featured turbaned models, models wearing hijabs, and pagodas as hats. In the world of cultural appropriation, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it shouldn’t be let-go as a poor choice made by a globally-watched fashion brand. Although I cannot speak for the reactions of the Muslim community, I can speak for the reactions of my own community because I am a Sikh. Growing up, I watched my father and grandfather tie their long uncut hair, tucking it into their tied turban. My brother wears the smaller version of the turban, and someday he too will wear the version that you may have seen on the runway.

Historically though, turbans weren’t always associated with Sikhism. In India, turbans were considered a part of royalty; they weren’t a part of the Sikh identity. If Gucci’s intentions were as such, then perhaps this wouldn’t have been as much of a big deal. However, considering the Muslim hijab was also featured in this runway being culturally appropriated, I’m going to assume that they were associating the turban with a Sikh’s identity.

Ever since 9/11, Sikhs have been targeted due to the fact that Osama bin Laden’s turban resembled the round Sikh turban called a dumalla. With his uncut beard, he very much resembled the identity that Sikh men have with their turbans and their unshaven hair. A dumalla is a specific turban-style that is fully associated to Sikhs, due to the fact that it was bestowed by the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh. Since a dumalla was not featured on Gucci’s runway, many articles referred to the turbans as Sikh-like. at saying, wearing a dumalla or a regular turban, which in Punjabi is referred to as a dastaar, still makes my community vulnerable to interrogation, racism, and religious intolerance.

When many Sikhs go through security, they are patted down specifically on their heads to check if there’s a bomb. Many times, they are even asked to take off their turbans as if instead of their long hair put in a top-knot, there is something else. It’s unfair that fashion companies are able to reap all the benefits and create a fashion trend at the expense of a whole community being marginalized without any of the models being of that community. With a religion, that’s already so heavily targeted, to equate the turban as a fashion accessory puts a bad taste in my mouth. My religion and this identity given to me, something I consider a blessing, making it a trend and putting it on people who clearly do not represent the religion properly is the problem. There are American Sikhs, who although may not be of Indian descent, still practice the religion to its capacity. ere are Sikh women as well, who wear the dastaar with pride. With Sikhism being the h largest religion in the world, there were many models to choose from, Waris Ahluwalia being one of them, a turbaned Sikh model who was featured in a Gap ad in 2013. Although I’m glad the turban and Sikhs, in some way got exposure, I would like to say this: Dear Gucci, the turban that Sikh men and women wear? It is not a fashion accessory.

—Rania Kaur, Volunteer Writer