17. April 2012 06:29
The media furor over Urban Outfitter’s inappropriate and illegal use of the word “Navajo” for a line of fake Native clothing and accessories has died down, but some basic issues remain. Urban Outfitters has removed the word Navajo from their tags, although it doesn’t appear they’ve apologized to Sasha Houston Brown or to the Dine' People.
Because two big name fashion designers visited Santa Fe last year and, inspired by the Southwestern style fashions sold there at high end boutiques, released new lines of Native inspired clothing that are all the rage among the beautiful folk. And their ideas have influenced other well known fashion designers. If you don’t believe me, check out the New York Times Fashion and Style page for March 16 of this year.
This isn’t the first time Native American designs have been borrowed by the fashion world and it won’t be the last. But I feel that two important issues are being overlooked.
Why was the legal violation not taken seriously? If a clothing firm decided to market a new line of ladies clothing, including underwear, and appropriated the name of any other minority group in the United States (and I’m not going to give an example so that I won’t offend anyone), the screams would be heard all the way to the White House. Here, there was no outrage from the ACLU, no legal challenge--except from the Navajo Department of Justice.
The second thing that’s being ignored is the Native people themselves. Why are they not being taken seriously? Today's young Indian people are highly educated, they hold important positions outside the reservations; more, they are trained and recognized artists. I find myself wondering why some of these fashion big shots didn’t approach talented Native clothing designers and either hire them or produce clothing inspired by their work?
Could the reason be that the First People are still the most ignored minority in American society today?