Adidas Responds to Cultural-Appropriation Backlash to Pharrell’s Hindu Festival-Inspired ‘Holi’ Line

Adidas hasn’t missed the mark much in recent years, but its latest Pharrell-created Holi-inspired collection is receiving a fair share of public backlash for its perceived cultural appropriation.

The Adidas Originals x Pharrell Hu Holi Powder Dye collection, according to the brand, was designed to represent “a continuation of the Hu journey, reflecting Pharrell’s founding vision of energy, color and spirituality as a unifying force between peoples.” The line — which features several iterations of the Hu NMD, PW Human Race and the Stan Smith PD sneakers — was first released in India on March 2 and is scheduled to hit stores worldwide on Friday.

The storytelling behind the line is the ancient Hindu Festival of Holi in India, a springtime celebration of joy, equality and humanity.

Pharrell Adidas Originals Holi
A model in the Pharrell x Adidas Originals Holi-inspired looks.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Adidas

Despite its documented intentions, some were not pleased with the line from Adidas and Pharrell.

“A European company getting an American musician to market a line of apparel/footwear inspired by an Indian festival. Don’t really care, but yuppp, technically, this is cultural appropriation,” wrote Twitter user @Ishita_Trivedi. 

However, not everyone is offended by the collection’s release.

“i cannot believe people are mad about the pharrell collab…. holi is like x’mas, it would be like being mad there’s a x’mas sweater,” wote Twitter user @_itsamrit.

The user continued, “++ he had indian creatives working on it, and highlighted it in appropriate and respectful way + featured tons of indians in the campaign.”

In an email to FN, the brand sent the following statement in response to the backlash: “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 the platform to help tell stories of others from around the globe.”

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