One of the world's leading fashion brands, Louis Vuitton, has come under fire for the sale of a luxury designer scarf heavily influenced by the traditional Palestinian keffiyeh, a symbol of Palestinian nationalism.
People took to social media to accuse the designer of cultural appropriation and slammed it for failing to acknowledge the connotations the scarf carries in Palestine and selling the scarf at $705 when the traditional item made in Palestine costs less than five per cent of that.
Louis Vuitton (LV) described the scarf on its website as being "inspired by the classic keffiyeh and enriched with House signatures". The company claimed the scarf, made from wool, cotton and silk, is lightweight and soft, and that it "creates an easygoing mood".
"Profiting off the oppressed people of Palestine is beyond disgraceful @LouisVuitton why don't you speak up about the genocide & ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people," wrote one Twitter user.
profiting off the oppressed people of Palestine is beyond disgraceful @LouisVuitton why don't you speak up about the genocide & ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people #LouisVuitton #kuffiye #FreePalestine #Palestine #bts #ARMY #Gaza #kufiya #keffieh #keffiyeh #Zionist pic.twitter.com/lw0ZMuyHeU
— FREE PALESTINE 🇵🇸 (@aiyaserendipity) June 2, 2021
"@LouisVuitton is politically neutral when it comes to Palestine & Israel, but they're totally cool w/ making money off the keffiyeh. There better be plans on donating the proceeds to Palestinian victims (sic)," wrote another user.
The brand was also criticised for changing the traditional black and white colours of the headwear to blue and white – the colours of the Israeli flag – and releasing its new offering after Israel's latest round of air strikes on the Gaza Strip.
At least 255 Palestinians were killed, including 66 children and 39 women, and more than 1,900 others injured in 11 days of Israeli air strikes on the besieged enclave.
"Palestinian genocide is not something for you to capitalise on," one person Tweeted to Louis Vuitton. Another said: "Remove this from your site immediately, it's disgusting."
Louis Vuitton says they are politically neutral yet they are getting profits from the sale of this $705 keffiyeh inspired scarf usually worn by the Arabs and a symbol of Palestinian nationalism. And the color, is that some form of passive political commentary? pic.twitter.com/t3EALTVV56
— Ikhwan (@JatIkhwan) June 2, 2021
Louis Vuitton had nothing to say about the crimes against Palestine but wants to make a "keffiyeh inspired scarf". Watch where you guys put your money.
— S 🇵🇸 (@ssultanaaaaa) June 2, 2021
Soon after, author and lawyer Khalid Beydoun pointed out how other high end companies, such as Fendi, were also monetising oppression.
The Italian luxury brand's $890 scarf is also facing criticism and accusations of cultural appropriation after releasing a cashmere keffiyeh scarf.
"It's more of a pattern than an isolated incident," he said. "Stop trying to appropriate, mangle and mutate the Kaffiyeh."
Stop trying to appropriate, mangle and mutate the Kaffiyeh.
Symbols matter. Especially for oppressed people. @Fendi pic.twitter.com/YRjkKtjMrB
— Khaled Beydoun (@KhaledBeydoun) June 2, 2021
So Google's search engines associates the traditional Palestinian keffiyeh as a "symbol of terrorism", yet @LouisVuitton has no shame to culturally appropriate it omg. Guess it's a "cool accessory" if rich white people wear it, eh? pic.twitter.com/N3UlSX6RyA
— Anita Zsurzsan 🇵🇸 (@iamjourjean) June 2, 2021
Luxury brands love to be neutral on issues that matter to us, but then replicate our culture for their own gain. @Fendi @LouisVuitton this is cultural appropriation. Clearly you didn't care to understand the symbolism behind the keffiyeh. You just wanted to profit off of it ❌ pic.twitter.com/IkMx9gk6HN
— Sofia Haq 💃🏻 (@sofia__haq) June 2, 2021
Hirbawi Textile Factory, which describes itself as the Palestinian territories' last and only keffiyeh factory, dubbed the scarf "the unofficial Palestinian flag".
The intricate pattern, according to the factory's website, "is said to represent a fishing net, a honeycomb, the joining of hands, or the marks of dirt and sweat wiped off a worker's brow, among other things."
Neither Louis Vuitton nor Fendi have issued a statement, however, the keffiyeh can no longer be found on the Louis Vuitton website.
READ: Google suggests Palestine keffiyeh as symbol of terrorism