It's no secret that the world's wealth is being increasingly concentrated in the hands of the few. In fact, a recent Oxfam report, Working for the Few, indicated that almost half of the world's wealth now belongs to just one percent of the population. Or from another perspective, the richest 85 people in the world have as much wealth as the entire bottom half of the world’s population. Oxfam shares the concerns of a growing number of observers, stating that "When wealth captures government policymaking, the rules bend to favor the rich, often to the detriment of everyone else. The consequences include the erosion of democratic governance, the pulling apart of social cohesion, and the vanishing of equal opportunities for all."
Problematic? Yes, but that doesn't mean global brands aren't falling over each other to provide luxury goods to cash-happy customers. Take Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli, for example, who launched the brand bearing his name back in the early seventies and has gone on to build a global empire for his colorful clothes and accessories, which often take inspiration from other cultures. In the tweet below, for example, a rather Western-looking model is showing off an outfit in an exotic setting, with the text indicating that the look for the clothing line this represents was "inspired by Arabian architecture, African colors and Japanese pictorial art."
Of course fashion is based to a large degree on plundering other cultures for inspiration, which some might find the reflection of a colonial worldview. But the essential thing is to know what to appropriate and what to leave alone. In 2004 Roberto Cavalli was taken to task for a line of underwear and swimwear created for Harrod's of London. While admittedly colorful, the designs were based on representations of Hindu goddesses. This shocked the Hindu community to the extent that the line had to be withdrawn, complete with an apology from Harrod's.
Ten years later and Roberto Cavalli seems to have stepped in it again, this time in the form of a logo for its Just Cavalli brand. The design is nice enough but the snafu is its marked resemblance to the registered logo employed by the MTO Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism. Sufism is a branch of Islam, with the school having more than 500,000 students in centers worldwide, including Virginia, Texas and California. The school's emblem, shown at left, is apparently based on sacred religious iconography.
Many of the school's students seem less than pleased by the similarity of the Just Cavalli logo, especially given the context within it's being used. In the clip below the logo is employed as a tattoo and is described as a snakebite, "the sign of seduction." So here we apparently have an Islamic religious motif being appropriated and reinvented as Christian Biblical imagery, to be employed within a commercial context. Who could possibility be offended by that? No surprise then that a social media campaign has been mounted to ask Roberto Cavalli to rethink the logo's use, complete with a change.org petition.
Could the striking similarity between the two logos be accidental? It's possible, although Roberto Cavalli's long-term appropriation of imagery from other cultures does make one wonder. Meanwhile, a Just Cavalli shirt will set you back more than what the average worker in India or the Philippines makes in a month. Enjoy!