The Sufi campaign to stop Roberto Cavalli using a symbol on his ‘Just Cavalli’ perfume range, that they deem too similar to their own sacred symbol, has stepped up a notch. The MTO Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism filed a lawsuit against Cavalli in the Central District of California in Los Angeles last week. According to the Sufis, the designer has rotated the symbol of the MTO Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism -two arcs linked in the middle – by 90° to come up with the one used on his perfume. They claim that the sign is not only is its use disrespectful but is also offensive and degrading. The offending mark can be seen tattooed on Georgia Jagger’s neck in the perfume advertisement.
In the lawsuit, the organisation accuse Roberto Cavalli of trademark infringement, trademark dilution and unfair competition. Although the school has owned the trademark since 1987, the courts will need to determine if the mark could cause confusion between the brands. Back in May, the European Union’s trademark and design authority, the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) , rejected an official request by the Sufis to invalidate the Just Cavalli logo. The Court stated that the two logos are not mistakable and do not present any similarities.
Wigs And Gowns caught up with Ghonche Alavi, a protester and member of the MTO Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism
When did you first notice or hear about the sign Roberto Cavalli was using in its perfume advertisements?
Around two years ago – I saw an advertisement online for the Just Cavalli perfume.
What was your initial reaction?
I was shocked and furious – how could he be allowed to take something so sacred which belongs to an authentic and spiritual school and degrade it!
Did you reach out to the company to express your concerns?
I emailed the press office and several department stores which stocked Just Cavalli products varying from perfumery to jewellery, bikinis to clothes and footwear.
What was the reaction of Roberto Cavalli?
He did not respond. The press office sent copy and pasted responses to me and friends of mine who had also written several letters.
Can you tell us a little bit about the symbol in the Sufi religion and what it means to you?
The sacred Sufi emblem has a heritage of 1400 years which dates back to the birth of Islam and the birth of the MTO Shahmaghsoudi school. The iconography embedded within the emblem is highly significant to sufis, it spells out the name of God, “Allah” and “Hoo” as well as “Alif Lam Mim” which is part of a verse from the Holy Quran. The emblem also takes the shape of an open heart which refers to the essence of the teachings of Sufism which is to purify the heart and turn back to the heart.
Have you considered taking legal action against Cavalli?
MTO has now taken legal action against Cavalli – as a student I have only tried to campaign and put pressure on the brand and department stores to stop using our logo.
There have been a number of demonstrations throughout the world – what kind of reaction have they met with? Have you received support from any other fashion brands or stores?
The demonstrations have been very successful – many people signed the petition at the demonstrations. We even had several shoppers return to Cavalli stores to get a refund on their products after hearing about the dispute. Harvey Nichols in London has stopped stocking their items also.
The Cavalli company claim that any similarity is just a coincidence. In statement to the Guardian earlier this year, a spokesperson stated;
“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.”
Many thanks to Ghonche and the MTO Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism for taking the time to answer our questions.