Pharrell's 'Hu Holi' Adidas Line Under Fire for Cultural Appropriation

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
Pharrell Williams.

The new Holi festival-inspired Adidas Originals by Pharrell Williams collection is under attack, but Adidas defends it.

On March 2, Pharrell Williams and Adidas Originals prereleased their collaborative spring-summer unisex apparel and footwear line, dubbed the Hu Holi Powder Dye Collection, with vibrant hues inspired by the spiritual Hindu festival known as the "festival of colors" in celebration of the beginning of spring in India and Nepal.

The Holi festival (where attendees douse themselves in vividly colored powder) fell on the same date, and Williams touched down in India to take part in the festivities for the first time, but he didn't look too excited about it. The Twitter universe pounced on the grim look on the Happy singer-songwriter's face in photos posted on the occasion — a sharp contrast to the brilliant colors and joyful mood of the festival.

Now the stylish musician may have even less to smile about. Since promotional videos of his India trip were released by Adidas, the Twitter-sphere has accused both Williams and Adidas of appropriating Indian culture for the sake of fashion.

Reno-based Hindu cleric and president of the Universal Society of Hinduism Rajan Zed has also notably called for Williams and Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted to issue a formal apology and rename the collection, which Zed says takes "Hinduism concepts frivolously, using them to make a fashion statement and sell shoes for mercantile greed" while pointing out that some of the shoes are made of cow leather, which is avoided by Hindus, who consider the animals to be sacred. Zed refers to the collection as "trivialization of traditions-concepts-symbols-beliefs of Hinduism."

Adidas responded with an email statement to The Hollywood Reporter's request for comment: "Adidas Originals and Pharrell Williams created Hu as a global platform to inspire positive change. Hu was founded upon the principles of unity, equality, humanity and color with an intention to explore humanity and celebrate diversity around the world. Together, Adidas Originals and Pharrell Williams use this platform to help tell stories from around the globe."

On March 7, Zed's similar criticism of stockings imprinted with the image of Hindui deity Lord Ganesha forced to pull the goods from sale on their site. And in February, Alessando Michele sparked accusations of cultural appropriation for putting religious-looking turbans and elements of multi-culture dress on the models in his fall-winter 2018 Gucci collection presentation, as did Max Mara, Pyer Moss, Marc Jacobs and other designers who featured hijab-like headwear. Jacobs also came under attack for the head wraps shown in his spring-summer 2018 collection.  

With so many fighting for more inclusion in fashion in terms of representation of more sizes and races, shouldn't we consider that statements like these that embrace other cultures might actually broaden awareness, while an accusation of misappropriation could end up backfiring by narrowing the spectrum of diversity?