|Writer discusses recent controversies affecting Native Americans and the fashion industry:
There are 565 historically, culturally, and linguistically distinct, federally recognised Native American tribes in the United States. 565 cultures routinely boiled down to a fake feather headdress or fringed t-shirt.
The fashion industry is notorious for profiting from the co-option and reproduction of cultural dress from across the globe. No culture is safe from being repackaged and sold as the latest thing. No remuneration or benefits are afforded to the communities who provide "inspiration" – communities who are often scorned for wearing ethnic items, and whose artisans struggle to make a living from authentic products.
In 2012 Urban Outfitters produced a "Navajo" range of clothes and accessories. The range had no links to Navajo designers or artisans, items merely displayed a faux tribal print. The marketing of inauthentic products using Native American tribal names is outlawed under the Indian Arts And Crafts Act. The Navajo Nation served Urban Outiftters with a cease and desist letter, highlighting their particular objection to the Navajo hip flask and the Navajo Hipster Panty which contravened their spiritual beliefs about modesty, and the reservation-wide ban on the consumption of alcohol.
Writing from Dakota on the Racialicious website, Sasha Houston Brown, of the Santee Sioux Nation described the problem: "Urban Outfitters Inc. has taken Indigenous life ways and artistic expressions and trivialized and sexualized them for the sake of corporate profit … Just as our traditional homelands were stolen and expropriated without regard, so too has our very cultural identity."
Get the Story:
Tansy Hoskins: Fake Native American clothing ranges show the darker side of fashion
(The Guardian 8/22)
Navajo Nation fails to
reach settlement with Urban Outfitters (08/05)