Pfaff Harley-Davidson and ZAK create a Tough Turban for motorcycle riding Sikhs

Who: Pfaff Harley-Davidson, with Zulu Alpha Kilo and industrial design company Spark Innovations.

What: “Tough Turban,” impact resistant materials that can be used to protect motorcycle riders who wear turbans instead of helmets.

When & Where: The product was introduced last week, and design specs and instructions can be downloaded for free at

Why: Practically speaking, the material provides a new, safer method for anyone who wants to ride a motorbike while wearing a turban instead of a helmet. While self-evidently a good thing since it can reduce head injuries, it also seems to make a larger statement about the brand having a deeper understanding of its Sikh consumer base.

“Pfaff Harley-Davidson strives to celebrate and champion diversity in the motorcycle community, and this was the perfect idea to support their brand,” said Zulu Alpha Kilo founder and chief creative officer Zak Mroueh.

While this is about motorcycle safety, Pfaff might also expect to see some halo benefits across its portfolio of high-end automotive sales and leasing brands.

How: The design features what the agency calls “emerging technologies” to create the turban material, including “non-Newtonian foam that hardens on impact, 3D-printed chainmail and a composite fabric used in bullet-proof clothing.”

According to the agency, the idea was two years in development and inspired in part by the father of associate creative director Vic Bath, who grew up in a small village in India and dreamed of owning a Harley-Davidson, “which to him was the ultimate symbol of freedom.”

The design specs for the prototype have been open-sourced and released online so others can make their own version.

There’s also a making-of video featuring Sikh riders explaining the importance of the turban, and Chris Pearen of Spark explaining how they made the material. “We took a look at some plastic options to be able to create a chainmail-like matrix that would be able to be incorporated into the traditional feeling turban,” he says. The video is on the ToughTurban site, and being pushed out through Pfaff’s social media channels.

“This idea has taken off globally,” said Mroueh, pointing to a Times of India report that Sikhs in the U.K. were going to ask the government to change the law requiring them to wear helmets while riding motorcycles. “We have manufacturers from India and Thailand reaching out, we’ve even had scientists reach out to help us test it to bring it to the mass market. Our next goal is to work on bringing this to market on a global mass scale.”

Design thinking over advertising: Tough Turban is another example of agencies creating solutions to problems that benefit their clients, rather than simply defaulting to advertising and communications. “This initiative combines a lot of things we’re glad to focus on at Zulu Alpha Kilo—inclusion, innovation and our core belief in using design thinking to solve real world problems,” said Mroueh, in the release.

And we quote: “Pfaff Harley-Davidson is proud to help champion an idea that celebrates the diversity of our ridership. We are honoured to help advance the cause of diverse gear, and to help build awareness for the potential of the innovation amongst our vast community of riders across Canada and around the world.” —Brandon Durmann, brand marketing specialist, Pfaff Harley-Davidson

David Brown