Writings‎ > ‎

Fashion Misuse of Indian God By Guess

posted Oct 23, 2010, 2:15 AM by Diana Rohini LaVigne   [ updated Oct 23, 2010, 2:17 AM ]

Fashion Misuse of Indian God  By Guess?, Inc.
Fashion Industry Leader Alienates Yet Another Ethnic Community

Diana Rohini La Vigne

Promoting itself as a worldwide leader in the fashion industry,
California-based Guess?, Inc. has once again sacrificed company
responsibilities for the sake of advancing in the world of fashion.  
Having just pulled their "Ski Colombia: Always Plenty of Fresh Powder”
shirts from the shelves after series of protests, Guess has introduced a
new t-shirt sporting the Indian God, Ganesha with a slogan imprinted on the
back rear area reading “Handsome Elephant”.  This has sent shock waves
through the Indian community.  

Renu Dalal-Jain, CEO of Flair Consulting, an image consulting firm in
Philadelphia, notes, “I was in Bloomingdale’s when I saw a sales lady
folding a tank top with a photo of Ganesh-ji on it.  I asked her for a
closer look – and I couldn’t believe it!  Not only was some young girl
going to wear an image of one of Hindu’s five most sacred deities on the
front of her shirt but she was going to parade around with the words
Handsome Elephant silk-screened onto her backside!  To me, this is the
equivalent of someone silk-screening a photo of Jesus Christ on a cross
onto a shirt and writing the words bloody man on the back – or putting a
picture of the Star of David with super star written on the back.  Have you
ever seen shirts like this?  NO!  Why?  Because even crass Americans
understand the significance of Jesus or the Star of David, and they would
never dream of desecrating those symbols.  So why is Ganesh-ji any
different?”

With locations across America in major cities like Boston, Miami, Los
Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Las Vegas, Guess?, Inc. states on their
website that they are committed to listening and responding to the needs of
customers, associates, and business partners, and to honoring their
individual value.  Additionally, they promote that they give back to the
community, support humanity, and protect the environment as part of their
responsibilities.  And lastly, they claim to embrace diversity, and
cultivate strength, pride, and passion to align their personal lives with
their professional lives.  It seems like their company mission words might
not reflect their actions as this is the second serious conflict with a
major ethnic community in the past few months.  If their sole purpose is to
gain attention, they are doing this very effectively although at a cost
paid for by their South Asian clientele, business partners and South Asians
worldwide. 

"I am absolutely appalled by the insensitive, disrespectful and callous
treatment by Guess in their depiction of the Hindu God Ganesh on their
T-Shirts. This kind of abusive and obscene representation of our deities
and faith will not be allowed or tolerated by our community. As everyone is
well aware, religion is not an area to be toyed with and Guess has not
shown the least bit of concern or respect towards the Hindu faith." Writes
Mitra Sen, Educator and Filmmaker in Canada.

With a combined disposable income of $88 billion, consumer savvy marketers
make Asian Americans a very attractive market.  South Asians are an
economic power that Guess?, Inc. shouldn’t look to offend if they want to
achieve growth in the U.S. market.   According to the 2000 United States of
America census, the population of Indian Americans in the United States is
1.67 million with an average income of $71,000, which is $20,000 more than
the average American family income. Currently, Indian Americans are the
wealthiest ethnic group in the United States and perhaps if Guess can’t
remove the t-shirts for ethical reasons, they might find some extremely
compelling economical reasons to remove them.

"In today's world of making a buck, Guess? has put forth a product that
truly reeks of commercial exploitation. There is no culture associated with
the shirt, nor any background to be an educational resource to those who
wear it. There no Guessing about that!" says Abhijit Ghosh, co-founder
South Asian Theater Arts Guild Experiment in WashingtonD.C.

“Could no one could stop this disrespectful and insensitive portrayal of
our Gods and Goddesses. I urge members of our community to take action
against this abusive display of our deities, so that this will not happen
again in the future. Please contact the founders, designers, corporate
sponsors and our community leaders. Let’s make them realize the lack of
judgment and insensitivity they’ve shown to the Indian community.” , offers
Tushar Unadkat, Founder, Moderator of Nouveau IDEA (Indian Dimension in Entertainment & ARTS).

Voice messages were left for Macy’s, Bloomingdales, and Guess?, Inc.
yesterday afternoon regarding this t-shirt situation. Joyce Weber, the New
York City based corporate head of public relations for Guess?, Inc.,
returned a call from Dalal-Jain to gather more details about the growing
concern.  Ms. Weber said that she would bring this up to Guess?, Inc.
executives.  When she was told the issue involved a tank top, she quickly
added, “Well if it’s a tank top, it’s probably not going to be in stores
too long anyway.”  So her message to Indians is clear; don’t bother with
this issue, it will disappear anyways. 

Of course, Guess should have avoided this conflict by not producing the
offensive product but most Indians upset by this t-shirt agreed that a
public apology and the removal of the shirts from stores would be a
satisfactory gesture and afford them the luxury to stop campaigning against
Guess?, Inc in any way.  Dalal-Jain expresses the ultimate
goal is to resolve this issue and maybe help Guess institute better
policies around the use of religious symbols for upcoming products.  

The  lesson that Guess might learn is that one of Indian’s best assets is its
ties, dedication and commitment to its own community.  A lesson they will
need to learn in a hard way as Indians worldwide will refuse to purchase
their Guess products.

Comments