Designer accused of hijacking religious symbol

Sufi students say Roberto Cavalli has replicated a sacred symbol on his Just Cavalli scent. The Cavalli company insists it's done nothing wrong.
Italian designer Roberto Cavalli.
Photo / Getty
Italian designer Roberto Cavalli. Photo / Getty

Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli has been accused of hijacking a symbol used by a school of Sufism to promote his JustCavalli perfume.

The group Sufi Rights said on its website that it was working with the students to highlight the "offence Roberto Cavalli... has caused by using their emblem" on the scent.

Sufism is a branch of Islam.

The group's comments follow a social media campaign by the students including on Twitter with the hashtag #TakeOffJustLogo.

Sufi Rights describes its objective as providing a voice to Sufis by "protecting the sanctity of their faith" and raising awareness about its misrepresentation.

According to the organisation, the 73-year-old designer rotated the symbol of the MTO Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism - two arcs linked in the middle - by 90 degrees to come up with the one used on his perfume.

Narges Aghabozorg, one of the main organisers of the campaign, told The Guardian the roots of the protest began in 2013, when she saw a Just Cavalli advert, featuring Georgia May Jagger and a male model in states of undress.

Jagger sports a tattoo on her wrist of the Just Cavalli logo, which she described in a behind-the-scenes interview as "[a] snake bite, it draws us together ... It's the sign of seduction." The advert drew a number complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority due to its sexual nature, but they were not upheld, The Guardian reported.

Georgia May Jagger in the controversial campaign

"My husband turned to me and said, 'I didn't know your school was putting out perfumes' and I looked at the logo and saw straight away the similarity to our symbol," says Aghabozorg.

The Cavalli company contests the accusation that the Just Cavalli logo is based on the MTO's.

"The logos are clearly very different and in no way can be deemed similar, and this has been recognised by the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM)," the company said in a statement issued to The Guardian.

The campaign compared to the Sufi symbol.

"When the company examined, conceptualised and registered the Just Cavalli logo, it received complete assurance by a primary trademark office that there would be no issues related to the juxtaposition of the logo, and in fact there have been none."

The school, which grew out of the Iranian diaspora, has branches in several countries.

The symbol had been "long used by Sufis", Farid Benaissa, one of the movement's organisers told AFP.

Several protests have already taken place outside Roberto Cavalli shops in Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Washington, Dusseldorf and London, and others are planned, including in Paris.

"They (the students) are demanding the withdrawal of all products using their symbol," said Sufi Rights, adding that the demand was based on a refusal to see the sacred character of their faith sullied.

This is not the first time Cavalli's designs have been the source of friction with a religious group. In 2004, a range of Cavalli swimwear featuring Hindu goddesses was removed from Harrods department store after the Hindu human rights organisation lodged a complaint.


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