Sufi community to protest designer of outrageously horrible 80s pants

Is fashion designer Robert Cavalli's logo a ripoff of a religious symbol?
Courtesy of the Just Take Off Logo protest

As if designer Roberto Cavalli hadn't committed enough fashion atrocities, now he's pissed off an entire religious community.

Tomorrow a gathering of Sufi students will protest the Just Cavalli line at Union Square, alleging the famous fashion designer used a sacred religious symbol in his clothing and perfume product lines.

The action is part of a global series of protests in London, New York, Houston, Los Angeles, Dusseldorf and other cities. In numerous YouTube videos, tweets, and blog posts, the Sufi students expressed outrage at seeing their symbol, which they also say is trademarked by their religious school for 27 years, used as a product for sale. The school's religious traditions have been retold from teacher to teacher for over 1,400 years, students of the school told us.

Put simply, they're pissed. 

"The symbol spells out 'Allah,' which means god for us, and also spells out words from the holy Quran," protest organizer and student Nasim Bahadorani told us. "Mr. Cavalli used the symbol on the top of a perfume bottle. He also took the symbol that means god to us and rebranded it as a snake bite in some contexts. For us that represents carnality."

"It is," she said, "outrageously insulting." 

The Sufi's protest group, called the "Take Off the Just Cavalli Logo," started a petition (with nearly 3,000 signatures):

The religious emblem belongs to MTO Shahmaghsoudi, it represents peace, purity and the name of God. Students of this school feel very strongly about the illegitimate use of this emblem as the JustCavalli logo. The logo has been tattooed onto models to represent snake bites and draws connotational indication of the deadly sins. This is completely opposing the original definition of the sacred emblem.

Not only is its use disrespectful but it's also offensive and degrading. 

The use of the sacred emblem as a fashion logo has also caused confusion amongst the family and friends of Sufi students. As well as having to witness the exploitation of their beloved sacred emblem, they also have to explain to their family and friends that they have no affiliation with the JustCavalli range due to the exploitation by Mr Cavalli.

He is making a habit of disregarding people's beliefs and belief systems, support this cause and make him aware of his insistent disregard of sacred emblems.

The outrage may stem not only from the alleged misuse of their religious symbol, but because commerce itself is spurned in Sufi teachings. 

A BBC explainer on the Sufi community :

Non-Muslims often mistake Sufism as a sect of Islam. Sufism is more accurately described as an aspect or dimension of Islam. Sufi orders (Tariqas) can be found in Sunni, Shia and other Islamic groups. Ibn Khaldun, the 14th century Arab historian, described Sufism as "dedication to worship, total dedication to Allah most High, disregard for the finery and ornament of the world, abstinence from the pleasure, wealth, and prestige sought by most men, and retiring from others to worship alone."

Now this journalist is at a distinct disadvantage covering Roberto Cavalli, having been born in 1986 and having zero fashion sense (no need to cite sources, it's well known). But the quite fashionable Bay Guardian Publisher Marke B. had this to say about Cavalli's high waisted pleated pants: "His was the stuff you'd run away from in the eighties." Then he shuddered. 

Pants sin exhibit A:

pants sin

The Cavalli company maintains any similarity is just a coincidence. In a written statement to the Guardian UK, it said "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). 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."

In one of their many YouTube videos, the Sufi student group contends the use of their religious symbol is a "sign of hatred." Clothing sporting the symbol can be found in San Francisco at H&M, Macy's, and Nordstroms.

The Sufi students plan to protest at Union Square on Saturday, June 21, at 1pm. "All we want is for the company to remove the logo," Bahadorani told us.

As a side note, the Sufi group has bombarded the Bay Guardian and other San Francisco outlets with about a bajillion tweets (that's a wholly accurate number) over the past few days. Suffice to say, they've gotten their message across. 



Can the logo be shown to be spelling the name of God or any verses of the Sufi's holy scripture--or is the problem only that it resembles the Sufi symbol which does?

I can imagine this is just a case of the pervasiveness of world culture and commerce running into the problem of the finite nature of basic shapes which may be used in communications.

If the logo was not intentionally chosen to offend then no harm, no foul.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 20, 2014 @ 4:48 pm

If you really think "no harm", take a look at the twitter handle #TakeOffJustLogo. But I'd be upset too if he took what I consider sacred and used it to market underwear. Have you seen those ads?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 20, 2014 @ 5:18 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 20, 2014 @ 5:46 pm

"No harm?" Does anyone remember the death threats made at the creators of "South Park" because they had Mohammed in a few of their cartoons? I don't remember Christians, Buddhists, Mormons, Hindus, or Jews losing their shit and threatening to kill Trey Parker and Matt over a few cartoons. What about the Danish cartoonist? How harmless was it then?

The BG is supposedly all about artists and free speech, but they're suspiciously quiet when Muslims threaten artists. And why is everyone so sure that he copied their logo? I see a resemblance but not completely sure that it is a rip-off.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 20, 2014 @ 6:33 pm

No. We should never give in to terrorism.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 21, 2014 @ 6:51 am

I'm not a middle-east expert but I'm pretty sure that Sufis are not really closely connected to the muslim extremists that freak out over images of Allah, etc.

In any case, I do agree that the logos aren't really close enough to consider this infringement.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 22, 2014 @ 6:23 pm

Over-sensitivity sucks

Posted by Guest on Jun. 20, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

I had a look at the trademark available online, and the resemblance between the symbols is uncanny. The similarity between the logos, and the fact that this is the second time Cavalli has put religious symbols where they don't belong (he put images of a Hindu god on bikini bottoms in 2004) makes me wonder if he's trying to send a message.

In any case, the mere fact that he is putting the symbol that half a million consider holy on underwear and comparing it to carnality, and the massive #TakeOffJustLogo campaign this has caused from visibly upset students should be enough for anyone with any sense to change the logo (and this isn't even the original JustCavalli logo--he's already changed it more than once).

Apart from being clear trademark infringement, it's just the decent thing to do: when you see thousands petitioning on and sending tweets en masse and even organizing international demonstrations, there's gotta be a red flag somewhere in your head that tells you you're doing something wrong.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 20, 2014 @ 5:11 pm

A majority of Americans watch reality TV and eat junk food?

And when did SFBG decide it cares about religious right-wingers?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 20, 2014 @ 5:48 pm

Okay, let's break it down.

First of all, I'm not particularly religious but I have respect for spirituality.

Judging by the above two photos, the Cavalli logo and the Sufi image are similar in that they are based on curved shapes connected on their centerlines, but there are differences.

The Sufi symbol is symmetrical on two axes while the Cavalli logo is a reverse mirror image of itself across a diagonal axis.

The Sufi symbol has pointed ends while the Cavalli logo has both pointed and blunt ends, with the blunt ends being somewhat suggestive of the shape of snake heads.

The two curved portions of the Cavalli logo are connected by a featureless straight section, while the Sufi image is connected by a section with facets which might be seen as including inverted heart shapes. (Sorry I have no knowledge of Arabic and cannot interpret how the logo spells out any texts or name and thus do the best possible job of describing its shape in words.)

Did Cavalli actual mean harm to the Sufis? If this could be shown to be the case, I'd be angry about that, but frankly I am predisposed to think this story is about people getting overly touchy about stuff which shouldn't really affect them.

As for his earlier use of Hindu Gods on lingerie, he apologized (through a spokesperson) profusely for it, so that should not be taken as a clue to his intent here. Quote: 'Cavalli's spokeswoman in Milan issued a craven apology, insisting the designer had wanted to "celebrate Hindu culture, and not to denigrate it".'

All those products were immediately taken off shelves according to the Times of India story quoted above.

Anyhow, the logo also seems to resemble an uppercase "H" from a curvy font I once saw; sort of like this one:

My verdict is that there are more important things to Twitter about! Or maybe not!

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 20, 2014 @ 6:51 pm

You make some good points. In this video (, the first five seconds show the similarity between the (trademarked) Sufi logo and the JustCavalli one--they are so similar that students of the school have been approached by family members/friends asking about the perfume that their school was selling. The logo is prominent on buildings and items by the school, so you can imagine this causes some confusion. I encourage you view the video in its entirety, if you have time--it elaborates on the reason behind the passion of the campaign.

Posted by EducatedReader on Jun. 21, 2014 @ 12:27 pm

might have come up with. Sorry, but having bogus allusions to Nazis brings out the very worst in me.

I don't think Cavalli has been tied to Nazism in any meaningful way and his logo is not 45 degrees rotated (and mirror imaged) form of the Sufi symbol the way the Nazis manipulated the ancient Hindu symbol that they usurped. Cavalli's logo is different in several aspects as I have pointed out.

The t-shirt pictured in the video has a version of the logo which does not seem to appear elsewhere and it is different from others. Is that image actually a creation of Cavalli's--or was it made up by those who wish to deprive him of his own unique identity? As I researched it further looking for images--["Just Cavalli" "T-shirt"]--I see the logo is based on the initials of "Just Cavalli" run together.

I really think there is a human foible at work here and that is the human tendency to sometimes get one's feathers ruffled unneccessarily; and to become self-righteous. I honestly doubt that Cavalli intended to disrespect or abuse the Sufis or to usurp their identity: he's just trying to make a buck in the age-old method (actually dating from Louis the XIV, I think) of fashion mogulism.

I really don't care about Cavalli, but it does bother me when I think someone is inflating their own sense of entitlement to silence someone or push them around based on a dubious accusation and sense of religious moral imperitive.

If you can actually cite where the version of the logo shown on the black t-shirt in your video--the one that though it doesn't have the details in the connecting feature at least has same aspect ratio and the four pointed ends as your Sufi symbol; if you can cite where Cavalli actually started using that logo instead of the one which can most easily be interpreted as a stylized "JC," then I will give this further consideration.

ps--I think that though the Hindu symbol may be less common than it would otherwise be, you Sufis skate quite close to indiscretion by claiming it has been abandoned by them due to the misuse by the German fascists.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 21, 2014 @ 2:45 pm

Where's the originality? Where's the accountability? Doesn't "Designer" mean anything anymore?

Posted by confused on Jun. 20, 2014 @ 5:13 pm

I really enjoyed reading this article, Rodriguez has wittily explained what is actually a serious topic. I had a look at the symbols, and, in all honesty, it looks like Cavalli just rotated the symbol and removed two squares. Judging by the above post re the hindu Gods on the bikinis, I think Cavalli has it in for religions. I can completely see why the Sufi community would be completely hacked off. Good luck to them.

Posted by Dolat on Jun. 20, 2014 @ 11:10 pm

and other Hindu Gods as decorations on his lingerie, saying through a spokesman that his intention was to celebrate Hindu culture and not denigrate it. All the wares were immediately removed from store shelves once the complaint was made clear to him, and therefore it seems quite unfair to use that story to justify the accusation that he was being nasty in the case of this logo.

Also, as I wrote eariler, the Cavalli logo features the likeness of two snakes and has numerous other differences from the Sufi symbol. Perhaps he was intending to reference the Egyptian Ourobouros? Surely nobody has trademark rights on Ourobouros!??

The progressive readers of the San Francisco Bay Guardian should be careful in judging this story and not let their awareness of real anti-Muslim biases in the media cause them to jump off half cocked. Perhaps the Sufis should take stock in their own propensity to take offense when none was likely intended.

By the way, as for Mark B.'s opinion on "pants sin," I think the girl looks quite sinnable in those pants and therefore they were doing what they were supposed to do.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 21, 2014 @ 6:14 am

It doesn't take *so much* intelligence to know not to put other faith groups' gods on your crotch and the crotches of people who buy your bikinis. Yet Cavalli has done it twice.

You're trying really hard with the ouroboros thing. Why defend him so valiantly? (I mean no offense here, just curious, as the symbol really resembles nothing like a snake bite)

And I see what you're saying about getting offended too quickly, but keep in mind that this is the holy symbol of this school of Islamic Sufism. That you can buy in stores. On bikinis. Of girls who likewise "look quite sinnable", which is a little contradictory!

Posted by WhatDoesItMean on Jun. 21, 2014 @ 12:34 pm

I don't have any personal knowledge of him but I'd refuse to put any money on anything beyond saying that he has an eye for shape and color and is good at networking in the fashion world.

As for the Hindu imagery he once made the mistake of using, he apologized for his mistake and rescinded the product that bore those images--and technically speaking, the image was *not* "on the "crotch"; saying so makes it sound more vulgar than it was and is akin to what seems like your unfair portrayals of his logo as being an obvious theft and abuse of the Sufi's sacred symbol.

I honestly don't care to be in this position of disputing your claim which has obvious importance to you; don't like to defend some fashion mogul who's just trying to make a buck; I just don't like to see one group brow-beating anybody based on a mistaken claim as I take your claim to be.

I'm still willing to be proven wrong--I'd like to see some credible source for that version of a Just Cavalli t-shirt whose logo looks more like your sacred symbol-- but at this time I think you are mistaken.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 21, 2014 @ 3:02 pm

Good article! We are linking to this great post on our website.
Keep up the good writing.

Posted by odchudzające on Jul. 24, 2014 @ 5:48 pm

Religious idiots and fashion idiots square off.

As usual whiny liberals like lilli side with anyone protesting, no matter how dumb both sides are.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 21, 2014 @ 9:29 am

Worthless comment, The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near. A neocon, mugged of apprehension, is a waste and a national burden. You have no idea about religion or have a passion for fashion. Just a fool who likes to say he is around. I'm for fashion but will examine, as humans should do, the "other side" thoroughly before making a comment or a decision.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 22, 2014 @ 11:51 am

Worthless comment, The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near. A neocon, mugged of apprehension, is a waste and a national burden. You have no idea about religion or have a passion for fashion. Just a fool who likes to say he is around. I'm for fashion but will examine, as humans should do, the "other side" thoroughly before making a comment or a decision.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 22, 2014 @ 11:59 am

What do neo-cons have to do with anything here?

The "other side" of what?


Posted by Guest on Jun. 22, 2014 @ 5:04 pm

by reprinting the Sufi protester's version of the Just Cavalli logo.

Proper journalism would have had you go out and find your own example of the logo and not show it turned it sideways as the Sufi group did to artificially makes it look more similar to their symbol.

Viewed horizontally, the Cavalli logo resembles a mirrored initial or a curvy stylized "I" much more than the Sufi symbol for which it only bears casual similarlity.

In any case, please don't take these comments of mine as an endorsement of the fashion industry which I despise; nor as validation for any troll talk occuring on a completely different channel.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 21, 2014 @ 9:39 am

You know, if there was a cross on the pants, SFBG would be explaining that abusing the Christian religious symbol was just an exercise of free speech.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 22, 2014 @ 5:27 pm

I wonder how the BG reacted when there was that "artist" who threw feces on a picture of the Virgin Mary.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 22, 2014 @ 5:43 pm

but it would be instructive to see the SFBG result if someone came out with an "Oh Christ!" brand of hot jeans, etc. By running this story the SFBG really stepped into it. Way to go making the trolls correct in their flip indictments for a change! Hoorah SFBG!

By the way, I didn't really want to add to this story since I figure it is already getting far too much prominence in the top ten most commented list, but if you follow one of the links above and watch the Sufi's video about this perceived affront to them, I think you will detect veiled threats against the designer or those who are selling his clothes, to wit phrases such as "how long do you expect us to let this go on" or similar. To tell the truth, I always thought of Sufis as being a different from the radical and violent Islamists as they could be, but this story does alter my perception.

Ah well, I can still interpret it in my catchall schema, which is to say that ideologue extremists on all sides thrive on promoting animosity and discord. And still I will say I don't really *know* if Cavalli isn't one of them; I just sort of doubt it because the evidence hasn't been presented and yet these Sufi's act as though it has been.

Peace all! Lighten up!

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 12:12 pm

But are outraged by any perceived misuse of Muslim religious imagery. Why?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 6:30 am

Moslems are mostly non-white and so are "good" according to the PC mob.

Christians are mostly white and are therefore "bad".

To be a leftie, you simply need to consult the checklist and believe accordingly

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 7:05 am

I fear any person who has to wear special clothing to ward off the wrath of their imaginary friend, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Mormon and even Mennonite or Amish.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 7:21 am

superstitions. I wouldn't waste your time trying to understand them as they come from a place of paranoia.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 7:33 am

If people believe they must wear special clothing to appease the wrath of their imaginary friend, what else would they do upon command of the extra special friends of their imaginary friend?

Posted by marcos on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 11:12 am

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Posted by Brooks on Jul. 29, 2014 @ 4:59 pm

this is just one part of a growing movement of western fashion industry trend of misappropriating symbols and art of non-western cultures. walk down Valencia street and you will see hundreds of clone women walking around in "tribal" print / "geometric" design printed clothing...

you wouldn't think it's harmless if you come from one of the cultures who continue to be raped by the western hegemonic industrial complex.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 11:01 am

should wear based on ill-considered cliches of political correctness.


Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 11:15 am
Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 11:26 am

As if culture is a commodity.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 11:42 am

90% of those that are upset about would never be upset unless someone told them to be.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 11:54 am

It's simply about protecting what has value to people. That is commendable. They have kindly brought the issue up to Cavalli in many ways but were ignored. They have a legitimate concern, a goal to get the logo removed, and are using their rights to speak up in a peaceful manner. Good luck. Hopefully big corporations like Roberto Cavalli's Just Cavalli will listen to their own consumers and practice some social responsibility for once.

Posted by Jenna on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 4:08 pm

Catholics protesting Piss Christ? Fascists!

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 9:01 am

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