ZARA makes shorts out of stolen Palestinian kuffiyeh design

Update: It appears that ZARA has taken the item down.

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 waist and over the butt.

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 of the kuffiyeh — be it in any form — 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 the kuffiyeh 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.

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There are 16 comments

  1. Sara Hassan

    I can clearly see how Zara designers know how to be racist and how to mock cultures especially when it comes here to the Palestinian case.
    We can now see who really respects other cultures and who hypocritically claim to!!

  2. Hoda

    Nooooooooo! Zara, you’re so much better than this. Ugh so heartbreaking I suppose I should share this post with my readers, too. Thanks Sami for bringing this up~

  3. Danny

    I think it is somewhat perverse of you to suggest that shorts are more sexual than scarves, t-shirts or other articles of clothing. Is there a ranking of sexual clothing somewhere that I am not aware of? this is kind of mentality that is associated with rape shaming/blaming of victims.

    EVERYONE knows what the keffiyeh pattern is, and if they didn’t before, they will now. also – there have always been keffiyeh shirts, bags, bowties etc. a quick google search will reveal this.

  4. Sami Kishawi

    Thank you for your comment, Danny. This was not at all the intended suggestion nor does this target shorts or shorts-wearers in general. We have amended the sentence to: “The cultural appropriation of the kuffiyeh — be it in any form — 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.” ZARA is a fashion powerhouse with a track record of insensitively appropriating elements of other cultures and identities without context or attribution. Although this post identifies ZARA’s newly-released kuffiyeh-printed shorts as well as their other stolen designs as offensive, we stand against all forms of appropriation.

  5. adeelaz

    This one is really offensive. I wasn’t expecting this low from Zara. We need to respect movements of struggle for freedom and not humiliate them.

  6. Sarah naim

    I don’t see the problem with this, if anything I think it is good publicity! Describing how the shorts hugs the hips only shows the prevers of ur own thinking, but it doesn’t degrade the scarf or it’s meaning simply bcz we don’t think of our bodies or any of their parts are dirty or inappropriate. I am sorry and u want to them to reference the origin or the acarf or any other design inspired by other cultures!! If so, then we demand that u reference the history of jeans, jackets, button shirts, ties…etc. on all the garmets made and sold worldwide to their origins! See how silly that sounds? I think it is time to stop being offended by everything and start taking it easy.

  7. tim74836

    The privacy wall restricting information regarding cultural taboos has successfully made it OK to infringe upon regional concepts like this pattern. But its not just a pattern is it? Its a flag; which is a pattern that represents an idea, philosophy and even a political ideology. Ignorance due to the privacy wall has allowed the ignorant to circumvent the insult while the callous and racist wear the shorts knowing exactly what their doing. They may as well use the confederate flag, its the same thing.

  8. T

    I don’t know. Fashion is fashion, and is inspired by everything and anything, and every once in a while a certain print or fashion unique to a certain culture breaks into the mainstream and nobody blinks. What do they mean by “without offering any context, credit, or hint of sensitivity”? Should every pair of moccasins come with a book on Aboriginal and Native American history? Should every aztec looking print from Forever 21 come with an attached brochure on Aztec and Mayan art and culture? Seems like much ado about nothing. I on the other hand, need me a pair asap cause they cute as sh*t.

    I hate the headline “stolen palestinian kuffiyeh design”, inno you and your mom are not the only people to own a kuffiyeh, nobody broke into your safe and stole it. Its a very popular print in it’s own right, and I myself can be very uncomfortable about things relating to cultural appropriation, I just don’t know if this is an example of that. If nothing else, people who buy these and wear them thinking they’re just cute, will be more likely to find out at some point where that print originates, shedding light on an issue or a culture that might be lacking that exposure in parts of the world.

    Native Americans have a long and bloody history with “settlers” in their lands. I’m positive some native girls would have the exact same things to say to a picture of Mary-Kate Olsen rocking a tiger-lilly-esque outfit or Mischa Barton in knee high, suede frill moccasin boots. Theirs is a “cause” if I ever saw one, one that has been going on for a much longer chunk of history. That being said, everyone from Bon Jovi to Beyonce, and anyone who’s every shopped at Forever 21 or Zara or anywhere for that matter, has at some point rocked some form of Native American fashion statement, without a second thought. Because you’re wearing a trend, or shoes, not a long bloody history. It’s not cause for outrage. It’s irrealistic to think we pause and ponder every item of clothing we put on before we put it on.

    I have a lot of Indian inspired tops, but I don’t pause to think of Gandhi’s plight, or Imperialism, or Bollywood before getting dressed in the morning.

    This kind of stuff would be cultural appropriation if it was done maliciously – but it totally isn’t. Outrage has no place here. It’s far too butthurt to scream culture thief cause someone with a different nationality wants to wear something of your culture – whether they are aware of that fact or not. It’s claiming an element of culture as your own. It cannot be extended to using a certain print on an item of clothing, ZARA isn’t claiming to have made it up, nor are they implying that it is a traditionally Spanish print. Everyone needs to calm their hummus this kind of overly sensitive belligerent nationalist attitude is what antagonizes others and makes them less empathetic to a very important and worthy cause – something I think we can all agree on.

    1. nalkhaled

      Spot on T!!! Thank you you are the only one who actually make any sense! What’s the big deal????? If anything you guys should be proud of having this print on a piece of clothing that will sell in millions! Arabs just love to complain – choose your freaking battles. Thank you Zara the shorts look HOT!!!!

    2. Sora

      And this is something only white people can say. Or brainwashed poc. One should have respect for other people’s cultures, what is theirs can’t be yours simply because it won’t hold the same meaning to you. Just wear stripes or whatever white people love to wear.

  9. George Muammar

    Its so sad that you are unable to see the positive side of this event. You will always be offended because you only want to be offended. As a Palestinian that has had territory, culture, rights and even food stolen I am only happy if a clothes designer brings out our traditional patterns which until now have generally been associated with terrorists in the great Western world. I am not saying that Zara had any good intentions I could not care less but I think that the initiative of using a pattern that everyone knows the origin of in modem clothing will have an overall positive effect. Now please stop giving such a negative view of Palestinians no one entitled toy to speak in our name.

    1. Sami Kishawi

      Yes, and I think that’s wonderful, particularly because, as the website’s About page shows, the design is attributed to the Palestinian culture and the clothes are made using kuffiyeh’s manufactured in a Palestinian factory. This is very different from ZARA which uses the design without establishing any connection to the Palestinian identity, thereby implying to those who are unfamiliar that they were the original creators of the design. For what it’s worth, this is more a matter of crediting and respecting a culture, which is expected, and less a matter of sensitivity.

  10. Jessika

    You guys are making mountains out of molehills. Chill, it’s just clothes, it’s been done before, and that print is not exclusive to Palestine, it’s ubiquitous in a variety of colors all over the Middle East. Focus your energy on something that could actually help the Palestinian people instead of shaming of a fashion line.

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