After Burberry’s Ad, a Look at How the West Has Got Representation Right & Wrong

Companies like Gucci and Louis Vuitton have been accused of cultural appropriation in the past.

3 min read
Hindi Female
Edited By :Padmashree Pande

Representation matters, wherever that may be.

Burberry, a British luxury brand, is being aplauded by the Indian community for its latest advertisement on its children's collection for their 'back to school' designs.

It features a Sikh child in a Burberry jacket wearing a black patka, and desis are loving this simple gesture of representation by the brand. The pictures from the ad have gone viral on social media.

Sahib Singh, the 4-year-old Sikh model, had been cast in the ad along with other children from different ethnicities.

Not all western companies get the representation part right, despite their justifications after a controversy. Here are some examples of them getting it really wrong, and of them getting it right.


When The West Got Representation Wrong

The Italian fashion giant Gucci got into controversy in 2019 for its "Indy Full Turban," which was on sale on the website of its luxury department store Nordstrom for a $790.

The item offended the Sikh community across the world, which called out Gucci and Nordstrom for cultural appropriation and, of course, the price of the turban.

The community organisation Sikh Coalition had written on Twitter, "The turban is not just an accessory to monetize; it's a religious article of faith that millions of Sikhs view as sacred. Many find this cultural appropriation inappropriate, since those wearing the turban just for fashion will not appreciate its deep religious significance."

The French company Louis Vuitton stirred controversy in 2021 when it released a Monogram Keffieh stole, inspired by the classic Keffiyeh, the thick black and white chequered headdress.

Not only was one piece of that being sold for $700, the company changed its colours from thick black and white to blue and white which is the flag of which country – Israel.

Prada, in 2018, sparked anger after its products in its Manhattan storefront included some merchandise depicting monkey-like figures with black faces and big red lips.

Blackface, which Prada was accused of depicting, is a form of theatrical makeup mostly used by non-black people for the caricature of a black person.

"Prada Group never had the intention of offending anyone and we abhor all forms of racism and racist imagery. In this interest, we will withdraw the characters in question from display and circulation," the company's statement read.

Gucci got into trouble again in 2020 when the company launched its spring/summer 2020 collection at the Milan Fashion Week. One of the items appeared to be an all-white piece of cloth with big straps that looked like straitjackets, the same kind used to restrain violent prisoners or mentally-ill patients.

The company's creative director Alessandro Michele argued that the "blank styled clothes represent how through fashion, power is exercised over life, to eliminate self-expression and curb identity."

Not sure how many saw it that way but model Ayesha Tan Jones who walked the runway, held up her hands in silent protest with 'Mental health is not fashion’ inscribed on them.


When They Got it Right

With the hashtag #UnitedByHalf, United Colours of Benetton launched a campaign in 2017 to raise concerns regarding the unequal treatment of women in India.

The advertisement shows women standing up for equal pay and for equality of opportunity.

It was first launched in India on Valentine's Day 2017, and got considerable support from celebrities and influencers across the country.

An H&M advertisement, titled, "H&M Conscious: Sustainable fashion through recycled clothes", showed people from a variety of backgrounds modeling.

In two particular frames, a Sikh man and a group of Sikh men can be seen standing in front of a house in the UK, wearing colourful suits and turbans.

Companies like Gucci and Louis Vuitton have been accused of cultural appropriation in the past.
Companies like Gucci and Louis Vuitton have been accused of cultural appropriation in the past.

Apple, in 2017, put an advertisement titled "Apple – Inclusion & Diversity – Open"

"At Apple, 'open' isn’t just a word. It’s our culture. One that embraces faiths, disabilities, races, ages, ideologies, personalities, and differences. Because humanity isn’t singular. It’s plural," read the description of the ad, which shows 68 employees from diverse backgrounds, including south asian backgrounds, smiling at the camera.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from neon

Topics:  Gucci   Prada   Burberry 

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More