Arsalan Iftikhar, senior editor at The Islamic Monthly, posted a picture of this defaced Gap advertisement on his twitter account. This ad featured Sikh-American designer Waris Ahluwalia and model/filmmaker Quentin Jones. What, if anything, would the Gap do?
As this article mentions and as you can see from the Iftikhar’s twitter picture, the Gap tweeted back at Iftikhar, asking where the defaced ad was located. They also changed the background of the Gap twitter account to be the ad in a show of solidarity, as you can see below. Some Sikhs then responded with a “Thank you Gap” campaign on Facebook.
I find this incident encouraging for a number of reasons. First, the publicity has let me know about some interesting people that I had never heard of before. Waris Ahluwalia is a high end jewelry designer known for dressing well, making the 2011 GQ Magazine international best dressed list. He even writes a column on love and style called Love and Waris. Doesn’t fit your the stereotypical Asian American male profile, much less one for a Sikh American. Quentin Jones is model, filmmaker, and a Philosophy graduate from Cambridge. That’s quite a combination! She collaborated with Ahluwalia on this short for mytheresa.com.
Second, it sets an example of how a company can recognize and benefit from diversity. Putting a Sikh in a turban in a fashion ad, especially one recognized in fashion and art circles like Waris Ahluwalia, is a creative way to grow potential markets. You would never see a guy like him in an Abercrombie & Fitch ad. Gap’s response to the defaced ad was even better. It’s hard to buy good publicity like the “Thank You, Gap” campaign.
Some point out that Gap isn’t a perfect company even with these ads and their defacement response. While featuring an Indian American in their ads, investigative reports show that some clothes produced with South Asian child labor still have made it into Gap product. The Gap says it is trying to monitor conditions in its factories. Despite these other issues, I am glad that see at least some companies can see and realize value in recognizing and catering to diversity.