Friday, January 1, 2016

B.A.F.F.L.E.D. Fashion Law

Cultural Appropriation & Fashion Law--

One of the first cases making waves in this new year is Navajo Nation's lawsuit against Urban Outfitters.  It began in 2012 when Navajo Nation sued the retailer for using "Navajo" to describe a variety of items--including underwear and flasks.

Last week, the judge on the case ruled the Nation has standing to protect use of the term "Navajo", keeping it from being used, particularly when the usage is inappropriate, unauthorized, and undesirable.  Clearly these items are not genuine Navajo.  The Indian Arts and Craft Act gives Native American tribes the tools necessary to protect their culture and how it is uses in the marketplace.  Urban Outfitters claims the term "Navajo" is a generic term, simply used to describe.  Members of Navajo Nation obviously disagree.  This case will likely go to trial, as Navajo Nation is seeking damages--now for an undisclosed amount.

This case could provide the landmark decision on cultural appropriation. But, where are the lines?  Many celebrities have been accused of cultural misappropriation lately, and a case like this could absolutely provide a pathway for the handling of cultural mishandlings. In a letter from a Member of the Navajo Nation to Urban Outfitters CEO, the writer expressed complete disgust over their "blatant racism and perverted cultural approbation".   

We've seen Urban Outfitters with such fashion faux pas before--like "Obama Black" Holocaust Shirt".  What are they not getting?!?  In the past, they explained themselves saying it was a careless error in how they edited their website.  Apparently there was also an "Obama Blue" shirt.  Emm.  Ok.  They seem to get this wrong quite a bit... 

To what degree do we own our cultural practices?  What cultural practices mean the most to you?  Why?


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