The kuffiyeh, typically slung over the shoulders and around the neck, is recognized around the world as a symbol of Palestinian resistance against occupation and oppression. To fashion retailer ZARA, the kuffiyeh is a design best worn around the hips, over the butt, and between the legs.
Printed shorts are all the rage this season, prompting ZARA to release a line of shorts printed with all kinds of colorful and unique patterns. Of the six designs for sale on the company’s website, five of them have floral patterns. The sixth is a mock-up of the Palestinian kuffiyeh.
Both the product and the webpage it is featured on lack any context concerning the origin of the design or its connection to Palestinian history and identity.
The cultural appropriation and sexualization of the kuffiyeh is offensive not just to Palestinians but to all indigenous peoples who hold onto such designs as a sign of national, cultural, or historical identity. Although television show producers and American military officers appropriate the kuffiyeh as a trademark way of identifying “terrorists” for audiences to stare at or soldiers to shoot at, ZARA’s appropriation of thekuffiyeh is yet another affront to the collective identity of a people struggling for an end to Israel’s occupation and a start to the observance, accommodation, and protection of their natural human rights.
Further inspection of ZARA’s designs reveals that cultural appropriation is no foreign game to them. The fashion line currently sells Aztec-inspired clothing, such as this dress that makes absolutely no reference to the culture and history represented by this design, and this kaftan that is not attributed to the North African region from which it comes.
With ZARA commercializing these historically and culturally significant designs without offering any context, credit, or hint of sensitivity, the company is openly and willingly telling consumers that cultural sensitivity is secondary to fashion and that ultimately, disrespecting and stealing from the oftentimes tragic narratives of entire populations is acceptable if it can rake in a profit.