After Zara’s lungi, and Marc Jacobs’ white models in dreadlocks, Gucci is the next luxury brand that may have crossed the line between appropriation and appreciation. Gucci is facing criticism for their Fall 2018 fashion week collection in Milan where white models donned the traditional Sikh pagri/pag or turbans on the runway.

Many South Asians have taken to social media to call Gucci out on their appropriation. American actor Avan Jogia tweeted his disappointment that a South Asian model wasn’t selected to don the turban for the runway.

The turban is a spiritual symbol of honor in the Sikh religion that is worn by both men and women to conceal their hair. The hair is concealed to maintain Bana or form, as a way of signaling that s/he wearing the turban is doing so to maintain consciousness as the Guru intended and committed to service and the promotion of equality. It is also used to cover the hair so that it be protected and maintained in its natural state as created by God. Read more here. However, the European models on the runway wore the turban as a hat with their hair showing.

There are Sikhs and Sikh organizations who have raised their voices to show Gucci their religion is not for sale. It is frustrating for many to see their religion exploited by brands who use articles of faith as runway props and accessories. India-based restaurateur Harjinder Singh Kukreja and New York-based civil rights group Sikh Coalition are some and of the many voices who reached out to Gucci via social media with their opinions:

With Sikhs being the target of racist attacks since 9/11, the turban has had a negative connotation within American society. It is offensive to see it being used as “cool” and “trendy” in today’s fashion. This is the bindi at Coachella all over again.

However, others argue that on the flip side, it is interesting to see the turban become mainstream, that in having a fashion juggernaut such as Gucci put a spotlight on the turban and make it a fashion must-have, it is removing the stigma associated with it.

Hijabs have slowly crept into the world of high fashion with Muslim-centric lines. Would the turban following the same trajectory serve a bigger purpose beyond fashion?

And another question to chew on: Had Gucci invited a brown Sikh to model their turbans would that have made it OK? Would they still be co-opting a culture and religion?

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