Sikh turban on Gucci runway: Indian culture influences international fashion... again

Elements of Indian attire — the sari drapes, the lehenga swirls, the sparkly embroidery — have frequently inspired designers in the West. The Gucci show at Milan Fashion Week has taken it a step further.

fashion and trends Updated: Feb 23, 2018 18:50 IST
Akshay Kaushal
Akshay Kaushal
Hindustan Times
Gucci show,Milan Fashion Week,Cultural appropriation
A model presents a creation by Gucci during the women's Fall/Winter 2018/2019 fashion show in Milan. (AFP)

The turban has long been a part of Western fashion, though more in African style than Indian. The recent Gucci show at the ongoing Milan Fashion Week (Feb 21-27), however, had a model walking the runway in what appeared to be a full-fledged Sikh turban. And with that, Gucci has joined design labels such as Chanel, Elie Saab, Jean Paul Gaultier, Matthew Williamson, and Marchesa, which have on and off created collections or striking outfits inspired by elements of Indianwear, such as the sari drapes, the lehenga swirls, the sparkly embroidery.

With the world communities coming closer, the influence of Indian culture and heritage on international fashion is only growing, it seems. However, that might raise the question of cultural appropriation. Designer Nachiket Barve thinks that Indian culture can be best represented by Indian designers. He says, “When an international designer takes inspiration from our heritage, they often forget the nuances required to make it just as it should be. Turbans, for example, have a religious significance [for Sikhs] and should be represented in the most appropriate way.”

A model sporting a nath (nose ring) as part of Jean Paul Gaultier’s Fall/Winter collection, shown at Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris, in July 2017. (AFP)

Designers and fashionistas have, in the past, been called out for “cultural appropriation”, a situation in which elements from one community are used by a dominant community — a big example was when top model Heidi Klum dressed as the goddess Kali for Halloween 2008, and upset Hindus — but designer Masaba Gupta states that the fashion fraternity usually does its research. Masaba adds, “Since we see more and more [international] designers taking their influence from the Indian culture, it’s only good that we’re showcased in the grandest and most aesthetic way. While we tend to copy everything from the West, it’s only good that they think we’re so culturally rich that we can have a lot of influence on their design. This trend is certainly going to go big.”

Designer Namrata Joshipura agrees and says, “International designers only show our culture in a positive light and make things look even more fashionable. So we all should be open to interpretations.”

First Published: Feb 23, 2018 18:50 IST