KUALA LUMPUR, June 1 – Italian luxury fashion house Gucci made headlines over the weekend for a very familiar clothing item that many in Asia will recognise – the kaftan.
Far from your mum or grandmother’s billowy house dress, the Florence-based maison’s “floral embroidery organic linen kaftan” is priced at a whopping US$3,500 (RM14,440).
Gucci’s latest sartorial offering raised eyebrows in India, where many internet users couldn’t help but compare it to the kurta, a traditional long top commonly paired with pants that would cost nowhere near the designer’s wallet-busting price.
Gucci out here tryna sell a kurta that I can buy with $20 for 4K
— ShiniMAMI 🍎 (@_ShaahidahR_) June 1, 2021
A kurta for $3,500? I can already hear my mother screaming in Punjabi https://t.co/y6EFSxnQc8
— Amritpal Kaur Sandhu-Longoria (She/Her) (@AmberSandhu_RS) May 30, 2021
So Gucci is selling a kurta worth 2k max for 5.5 lac ?
Apparently when you have a ”brand name” you can sell at anything at any cost you want 🤷🏻
— Just Another Medico (@MedicoJust) May 30, 2021
— Y (@yumnna) May 28, 2021
Some have even accused the luxury brand of cultural appropriation, which refers to adopting one or more elements of a particular culture by members of another culture.
South Asians Online Claiming Cultural Appropriation After GUCCI Releases Version Of “Kurta” 🅱️🛣 pic.twitter.com/bl251ltxiy
— Bramalea Rd 🅱️🛣 (@BramaleaRd) May 31, 2021
According to several media outlets including Vice and Times of India, Gucci wrote in the product description: “Crafted from organic linen, this kaftan is enriched with a floral embroidery and self-tile tassels (sic).”
“First introduced as part of Gucci’s 1996 collection, the kaftan continues to be an integral part of the House aesthetic while evolving in new materials and modern details.”
However, a quick check by Malay Mail found that the description has been edited and now only features the first sentence.
Gucci is the latest member to join the ranks of other major fashion houses that have drawn inspiration from daily household items found in Asian homes with inflated price tags.
In November 2020, Tiffany & Co. rolled out a mahjong set for an eye-watering RM62,000 that will bankrupt you even before the game starts, following in the footsteps of Hermes and its RM175,000 mahjong set.
Similar to Gucci, Spanish fast-fashion retailer Zara was mocked in 2018 for selling what appeared to be an overpriced lungi, a type of sarong commonly worn by men in the Indian subcontinent.
Looks Zara selling this Lungi for $70. pic.twitter.com/TEvVkqnpqs
— Fazlur (@eightpackofabs) January 30, 2018
Ubiquitous market items found across Asia were also not spared from fashion gentrification by brands such as Balenciaga.
In 2016, the Spanish design house’s fashion show featured bags inspired by colourful wholesale carriers commonly seen in Thailand that will set you back thousands of dollars.
— Wee Wan (@Wee_Wan) March 11, 2016
Closer to home, who remembers Hermes’ 2016 nasi lemak bag?
What she says: I’m fine
What she means: that leafy Hermes bag is folded in a way that’s more reminiscent of lembas bread than nasi lemak pic.twitter.com/BghDwTUSGv
— shumai (@harmonicsunbeam) November 30, 2016