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The Roberto Cavalli Logo Controversy: When Luxury Brands Meet Religious Imagery

Chris Dickman Tue, 04/22/2014 - 08:22

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 This shocked the Hindu community to the extent that the line had to be withdrawn, complete with an apology from Harrod's.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!

10 Comments

jamak's picture

It is outrageous that we still allow corporations to get away with this. Technology and social media specifically has enabled us to let the giants know we exist and for our voices to be heard. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this Chris. What's your Twitter handle so I can give you credit when I tweet the link?

Behe RK's picture

This is really outrageous and he should be stopped. I wish there is someone who stopped this thief. He can not do this and get way with it so easily. He is disrespecting an honorable religious value with his disgusting video on our logo.

applemacgrandpa's picture

Design should enhance our lives and not insult. R.E.S.P.E.C.T is the key.

Mazamir_Unique's picture

FAME, MONEY, RELIGION, The don't go together, Cavalli needs to understand this!!! The world is leading to a whole different direction through fashion now days... I mean its unbelievable that the designer @Roberto Cavalli is getting his inspiration from Religious symbols? Well actually copying them! Hindu Gods on bikinis? and this logo from an Islamic school of Sufism as a TATTTOO on a half naked model??? a snakebite?? I mean this is ridiculous!! We need to help stop this confusion and disrespect towards religious beliefs. He should not be allowed to get away with it. I'm sure he will eventually be out there apologising, He should have learnt from his first mistake to start with. Religion should not be mixed with fashion. @Roberto_Cavalli #Takeoffjustlogo and stop disrespecting faith organizations
Thanks for this @Chris Dickman

banafsheh's picture

What a shame that a clothing company like Cavalli would not have creative and authentic designers for its lines so they have to steal logos from religious and spiritual faiths. I am truly offended by this disaster and ask Cavalli to stop using our school's Logo which is a SYMBOL with intrinsic and spiritual meaning. How can people respect and trust a designer who has no dignity and honesty in his Corporate values. We live in a society that all Corporations have their regulations and policies not to steal or copy from each other. STOP THIS AND RESPECT.

BaharRooh's picture

What a shame of this so called designer Roberto Cavalli!!! This shows lack of creativity and dignity.

Sia Nia's picture

Dear Chris,
I enjoyed reading your thought provoking article. Cavalli's fraudulent imitation of MTO School of Sufism epitomizes a busted company with no morality and imagination. Creativity is supposed to be discovering the unknown lands by going beyond the established rules and not by breaking the law. It is pretty obvious to me that Cavalli has infringed MTO's copyright and insulted so many people. I think Cavalli must apologize to these people, collect his “Just Cavalli” products from the market and pay compensations. I'm sure the Sufis will do more exciting actions in the future to stop Cavalli and I look forward to hearing more news on the subject, especially on the mainstream media. Thanks for covering this.
Regards,
Sia Nia

Behe RK's picture

Dear Sia Nia,
I am glad you mentioned this that he has to pay for what he is doing. . I think the only thing is matter that he takes off his products off the market. He started the logo with his perfume and now as you see is on everything. It feels that he know what he is doing is wrong but he is not going to stop. I read an article before that he did the same thing with the religious group the Shiva sign for Hindus'. He took it off after million of them protested on the streets. unfortunately, we don't have million people to go out there and stop him. But good people like Chris and you and others' might be able to raise the voice and do something about it.
Thanks to all you with your comments. I hope somewhere our voice would be heard.