Indianz.Com Video: Artistic theft? Fashion designer Bethany Yellowtail under fire for new collection
Fashion designer Bethany Yellowtail in ‘financial duress’ amid ongoing controversy
Tuesday, June 7, 2022
Indianz.Com

One of Indian Country’s most prominent fashion designers, who recently deflected allegations of artistic theft, is encountering new challenges to her business.

In a statement on Monday, Bethany Yellowtail announced the end to one of her long-running endeavors. She said she was shutting down an initiative known as the B.Yellowtail Collective due to “financial duress” at her Native-woman owned company.

“We have come to the unfortunate decision to dissolve The Collective platform due to the financial duress our company has been placed under,” Yellowtail, a citizen of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe who also claims ties to the Crow Tribe, wrote in a four-page statement.

Bethany Yellowtail Statement
byellowtail060622

The announcement comes just four days after Yellowtail touted the successes of The Collective. In posts on her company’s social media channels, and in an email to customers, she said the endeavor had put more than $700,000 into the hands of over 60 Native artists since 2016.

“This provides a much needed revenue stream for artists and their families, and allows for economic reinvestments in their own communities,” Yellowtail’s company said in the multiple messages, which were posted on June 2.

Yet in the new statement, which was sent via email in the evening, Yellowtail blames some of her former artistic collaborators for her financial troubles. She accused a handful of Native artists — including one who came forward with the theft allegations — of trying to “cancel” her.

“Some of you are cc’d here and I witnessed you participate,” Yellowtail wrote in the June 6 statement.

A distribution list seen by Indianz.Com shows Yellowtail’s message went to more than three dozen people — almost all of them Native artists. But other than the Native artists she accuses of orchestrating a “social media smear campaign” she does not identify who she believes has turned against her.

Let’s talk about BRANDS WE LOVE: Meet @byellowtail. We met Bethany Yellowtail and her business partner Kim Meraz through…

Posted by Faherty Brand on Thursday, March 26, 2020
Kim Meraz, left, is seen in a social media post with Bethany Yellowtail, right. In the center is Kerry Docherty of the Faherty fashion company, which has worked with Yellowtail’s company in the past.

In addition, Yellowtail revealed a new detail about the business she launched more than seven years ago. She said her former partner, who helped create the fashion company, has been “terminated” from the company due to alleged “financial misconduct.”

Yellowtail did not state exactly when she parted ways with her former business partner, Kim Meraz, but she indicated that their relationship ended very recently, sometime in the last few months. She claimed Meraz, who is non-Native, had been negotiating a “license agreement” with the Native artist whose work has been at the center of the theft allegations.

“In the immediate future we will be scaling down B.Yellowtail to stabilize and recover our path forward,” Yellowtail said in the statement. “I will be making a public announcement to dissolve the collective platform soon, and we have closed out all of our Native artists collaborations with no plans to bring them into the future.”

When asked for clarification late on Monday evening, Yellowtail declined to answer questions about the claims made in her statement. She would not confirm, for instance, when she parted ways with Meraz, who was once touted as the California-based company’s biggest champion.

“Kim Meraz is our secret weapon,” a 2018 post on social media read. “Co-Founder of B.YELLOWTAIL and the business brains of the brand. Behind every design, collection and campaign, Kim is strategizing, balancing budgets and making sure every detail comes together.”

The post has since been deleted from Yellowtail’s social media channels, as have most other references to Meraz and her involvement with the company — at least in the spaces controlled by Yellowtail.

“Kim Meraz is my rock and my secret weapon, she’s been with me since B.Yellowtail launched,” Yellowtail once told Native Max Magazine. “Kim’s an incredible business savvy powerhouse and is one of the main reasons for the success of our brand.”

Yellowtail would also not explain the nature of Meraz’s alleged “financial misconduct” and how it has contributed to the company’s current financial state. In another part of her statement, she had said “jobs are in jeopardy from the financial strain.”

But just a year ago, Yellowtail credited Meraz with helping expand the company during the COVID-19 pandemic. She told MarthaStewart.com, a publication founded by famed entrepreneur Martha Stewart, that Meraz was her “business partner” and “operations director.”

Additionally, Yellowtail would not detail when she decided to shut down the B.Yellowtail Collective, coming so close to the June 2 social media post touting the initiative. In comments on the @byellowtail account on Instagram, several Native artists expressed satisfaction with the effort.

“Even though I am only able to send work occasionally I appreciate being part of the collective so much!” one Native woman artist wrote.

“I am honored to be a part of this collective!” a second Native woman artist stated.

“I have been very honored to be a part of the collective for several years,” another Native woman artist stated. She added: “You are helping so many Native Artist(s) build a future for themselves through their artwork.”

“My experience in this collective has been so wonderful,” a fourth Native woman artist said in the comments on the fashion company’s social media post.

Yellowtail also would not reveal how the shutdown of the collective will impact the future operations of her business. Instead, she characterized the pending publication of her four-page statement on Indianz.Com as having been “leaked” and she promised to issue a public statement soon.

“Given that I sent this confidential email out this evening, my concern is that a majority of our current collective artists have not had a chance to read it,” Yellowtail told Indianz.Com late on Monday.

The recipients of the Yellowtail’s email with her June 6 statement included some of those who commented positively on the Instagram post about the B.Yellowtail Collective.

“The Collective was my way of offering a space that could prioritize and benefit artists from the center of our tribal communities,” Yellowtail said in the statement. “It came from a place in my heart that only wanted to help our people.”

Related Stories
Fashion designer Bethany Yellowtail denies ‘false allegation’ of artistic theft (April 29, 2022)
Advertisement
Search
Filed Under
Tags
More Headlines