Urban Outfitters in Hot Water Over New “Navajo” Pieces

As one of the summer’s hottest trends, tribal patterns, continues running strong into fall there are a few actual tribes out there that are none to pleased with the way their culture is being co-opted into a fashion trend. The most recent target of their ire, Urban Outfitters, should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with racial controversy in fashion. The retail chain that once got in hot water for trying to sell Christmas decorations shaped like handguns to inner-city residents of Philadelphia, a city often plagued by gun crime, have apparently not learned their lesson about confusing racism with cultural referencing. This time around Urban Outfitters is offering up Peace Treaty Feather Necklaces, Native Headdress T-Shirts, Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flasks (classy) and Navajo Hipster Panties that have the slight flaw of not being designed or manufactured or approved by the Navajo Tribe.

The Navajo Nation Attorney General recently sent Urban Outfitters a cease and desist letter, which the retail chain would to well to listen to considering their products are technically in violation of The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 which prohibits businesses from making or selling any product “that falsely suggests it is Indian produced”. However the most poignant letter to date has come from Sarah Houston Brown who took Urban Outfitters to task in an open letter that was later posted on Racialicious.

The following except lays out her point very well:

“All too often industries, sports teams and ignorant individuals legitimize racism under the guise of cultural ‘appreciation’. There is nothing honorable or historically appreciative in selling items such as the Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask… or the Navajo Hipster Panty. These and the dozens of other tacky products you are currently selling referencing Native America make a mockery of our identity and unique cultures… I stand in solidarity with the Navajo Nation and ask that you not only cease and desist selling products falsely using the Navajo name, but that you also stop selling faux Indian apparel that objectifies all tribes.”

What really doesn’t make sense about Urban Outfitter’s latest debacle is the fact that there are many Native American tribes that are happy to manufacture authentic tribal goods for consumers. After all, if you are trying to stay on top of this whole tribal trend, wouldn’t it make sense to buy items made by an actual tribe?



Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>