Culture

Nike Stole Panamanian Indigenous Artwork And Tried To Pass It Off As Puerto Rican Until Latinos Canceled The Whole Thing

After Nike teased its imminent release of an Air Force 1 shoe design meant to celebrate Puerto Rico, it was immediately met with backlash. The design features a coquí, the frog that can be heard chirping all over the island, and Puerto Rico’s national animal. That’s cool.

What’s not cool is the colorful design bordering the coquí, which is a blatant copy of a traditional Panamanian mola design. The company has since postponed the release of the show. They even apologized for “the inaccurate representation of the design origin for the Nike Air Force 1 ‘Puerto Rico’ 2019 edition.”

The Puerto Rico Nike Air Force 1s were expected to be released on June 6 at $100 a pair.

@IsaacLarrier / Twitter

“@Nike, Guys, these are cool sneakers, and I get the reference to the Coquí frog, but this pattern and design are NOT from Puerto Rico,” @IsaacLarrier tweeted. “It’s a design called MOLA, made by the Guna people in Panama and parts of Colombia. It is a HUGE failure of your research department.”

The mola design belongs to the Guna indigenous peoples of Panama and Colombia and is very specific.

@IsaacLarrier / Twitter

Most of the Guna people live in Guna Yala, islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama. Belisario López, the leader of the Guna community told U.S. News and World Report that the design represents “Mother Earth because the design is based on everything that is nature.”

The Guna knew that their design was protected by intellectual property laws in Panama and fought back.

@luscifers_ / Twitter

Their lawyer, a Guna woman, released a statement that stated that Nike never asked for permission and that they “pirated” the design for company profit. Too often, companies steal from generations of indigenous art with no recourse. This time, the Guna people won.

The Guna Yala community isn’t opposed to commercializing the design.

@AFP / Twitter

“We are not against our ‘mola’ being commercialized,” Belisario López, Leader of the Guna Yala Community told US News and World Report. “What we oppose is it being done without consulting us first.”

Another major problem is that Nike tried to reappropriate Guna culture as Puerto Rican.

@friendlyskyz / Twitter

That a U.S. company would internationally distribute Panamanian artwork as representative of Puerto Rico left many Panamanians pretty angry. Rightly so.

The fact is that the mola is more than a design. It’s identity.

@amoreroxie / Twitter

Monica Martinez, a professor of social anthropology at Barcelona University who has been studying the Guna for twenty years, said, “The mola is like a flag for the Guna. There is really a cultural identity that is articulated around the mola. It is a very strong element of identity.”

Some Panamanians are pointing out that Panama has frogs, too.

@bluishyoongs / Twitter

As well known as the coquí is to Puerto Rico, the Golden Frog is also widely known as endemic to Panama. It’s Panama’s national animal.

Some Latinos are angry that Nike didn’t look closer into Puerto Rico’s own rich history of art.

@yayalove86 / Twitter

You don’t have to look too far to find an established Puerto Rican graphic designer or artist to consult with. Where are the art historians on the Nike team?

The creator of La Borinqueña already tweeted a mockup to Nike.

@MrEdgardoNYC / Twitter

“.@Nike, when you make a tribute sneaker for Puerto Rico, note that ‘mola’ art is from the Indigenous people of Gunayala in Panama,” @MrEdgardoNYC tweeted. “So, here’s my quick #LaBorinqueña mockup and we can donate proceeds to our grants program in PR and the Mola shoe can benefit Panama! Hit me up!”

The tribe is now seeking damages for profiting off “part of the spirituality of the Guna people.”

@tongai / Twitter

Guna lawyer Aresio Valiente told AFP, “The company has to compensate us because it was an illegal copy of our designs.” This is part of a larger effort to reclaim justice for what feels like identity theft.

Valiente knows that Guna’s case against Nike is “not the only one in the world. Thousands of designs and the ancestral knowledge of indigenous people are being pirated by multinational companies.”

READ: 21 Times the Fashion Industry Appropriated Latino Culture

Nike’s N7 Fund Supports Native American Youths And For It’s 10th Anniversary They Designed A Navajo-Inspired Commemorative Collection

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Nike’s N7 Fund Supports Native American Youths And For It’s 10th Anniversary They Designed A Navajo-Inspired Commemorative Collection

Nike

Nike’s N7 collection is celebrating 10 years of supporting Native American and aboriginal communities. The iconic sportswear brand teamed up with Pendleton Prints, the American textile company from Portland, Oregon, to create an anniversary collection that features Native American prints and patterns to honor Navajo heritage through design. 

Nike’s N7 Fund is inspired by Native American wisdom of the Seven Generations: in every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the seventh generation.

instagram @mvskokeyouth

The Nike N7 Fund supports organizations that provide sport and physical activity programming to youth in Native American communities. The fund helps them reach their greatest potential through play and sport and creates more equal playing fields for all. Since 2009, the N7 Fund has awarded more than $7.5 million in grants to 259 communities and organizations —and this year, it’s turning 10. 

Tracie Jackson, a graphic designer at Nike, is passing along her grandmother’s legacy in the 10th anniversary of the Nike N7 collection. 

www.nike.com

Upon going blind in old age, Phoebe Nez continued to weave rugs in the Navajo tradition, teaching her young great-granddaughter Tracie Jackson how to take up the craft. The member of the Black Streaked Wood People clan of the Navajo Nation (“Tsi’naajinii”) taught Jackson that every color and shape has a purpose that can be altered by many influences, such as creation stories, the environment and individual experiences. Nez committed her designs to memory, continuing to teach Jackson as her eyesight slowly faded.

Without my great-grandmother, I wouldn’t have learned about my culture, and without my culture, I wouldn’t have been a designer. My family ties are what influence my native identity.” says Jackson.

The collection includes blankets, sneakers, sweatshirts, and t-shirts all containing the storm pattern. 

www.nike.com

This pattern was a favorite of Jackson’s great grandmother and contains meaningful elements like zig-zags that represent lightning and the step patterns signifying the Mesas of Monument Valley in AZ. The pattern is a narrative tapestry of Jackson’s Navajo history, which specializes in designs personal to the individual weaver. Those living in different geographical regions will experience different environments. As the weaver becomes more skilled, he or she creates original designs based on the influences of classic works, personalizing the pieces with different colors and yarns.

Nike’s and Pendleton’s relationship dates back to 2008. 

twitter @stephaniejung

Nike first collaborated with the brand over 10 years ago. The sportswear label released ACG x Pendleton All-Mountain collection in an original print back in 2008. They joined forces again in 2013 on another collaboration, this time creating a tee, a jacket, a couple of sneakers and a commemorative blanket. 

But it wasn’t until 2017 when the two companies created a commemorative blanket for PK80 College Basketball Tournament. 

twitter @espnevents

The 2017 Phil Knight Invitational was a 16 team college basketball event held in Pendleton’s hometown of Portland, Oregon. The tournament was organized to honor Nike’s co-founder Phil Knight’s 80th birthday. 

N7’s 10-year anniversary collection, the design is Navajo-inspired and the storm pattern appears consistently.

The storm pattern appears throughout this year’s collection consistently, which also includes hoodies, leggings, joggers and more. Participating college basketball teams this year, will wear Nike N7 x Pendleton’s long sleeve crew as shooting shirts over their turquoise uniforms. 

Jackson also put her spin on the classic Nike Air Zoom Pegasus. 

www.nike.com

The Pegasus 36 N7 x Pendleton will commemorate the running womanhood ceremony that is customary among Navajo circles. “I’m very hands-on with my design process. A lot of native runners reached out to me asking for an N7 version of the Pegasus shoe. And I want to bring the voices of our community in,” she explained. “As native people, our feet are actually wider and flat, so the Pegasus shoe is the most ideal shoe for our body when it comes to running.”

We love to see this kind of representation done so sensibly, ethically and responsibly by brands as big as Nike. Ideally, more brands would pursue diversity —simply because it’s the right thing to do— to be more tone-aware and in touch with customers from every point of the spectrum. It doesn’t take a lot to realize that a diverse workforce that thrives in an inclusive culture leads to a higher level of innovation and an all-round stronger brand that everyone can relate to —maybe that’s why Nike remains as everyone’s favorite, after years and years. Here’s to seeing more projects like N7 come to fruition. 

The Swoosh Gets The Latino Treatment: Nike Launches Limited-Edition ‘Día De Muertos’ Collection Complete With Calaveras And Papel Picado Designs

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The Swoosh Gets The Latino Treatment: Nike Launches Limited-Edition ‘Día De Muertos’ Collection Complete With Calaveras And Papel Picado Designs

Forget Halloween. Each year more and more brands are tapping into the Mexican celebration of the dead, Día de Los Muertos, to target Latinos with their calavera-inspired designs. The Mexican holiday surrounds death, but it’s a time to celebrate life with loved ones, and each year it’s gaining more and more traction in the U.S. 

Celebrated in the U.S. from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, the holiday tradition calls for the creation of altars to deceased loved ones, decorated with photos, meaningful objects, and their favorite foods said to attract their souls. Petals of bright yellow-orange cempasúchil flowers are used to guide them from the cemetery, according to tradition. This year Nike took up the opportunity to celebrate, with a brand new collection dropping later this month, inspired by “traditional Mexican skeleton graphics.” This isn’t the first time the brand celebrates the Mexican holiday though, a few years back the Swoosh brand released another pair of Cortez’s to pay tribute to the dead on Día de Muertos. 

This latest ‘Día de Muertos’ collection is scheduled to release on Nike.com and at select Nike retailers on Oct. 30.

credit Twitter @Solecollector

This latest assortment will include the Air Force 1 Low, the Cortez, and the Air Max 95 which are all getting dressed up for the occasion. Each pair will reference the holiday ever-so-slightly with traditional Mexican skeleton graphics featured throughout the design on the upper parts of the shoe as well as on the insoles.  

The Cortez turns black and orange for Day of The Dead 

Credit Twitter @sneaker_arian

The Cortez, is a Nike style Mexican-Americans love to wear, and the sports company picked the iconic design to be part of the Day of the Dead collection. It’s not the first time the Swoosh gets the Mexican-inspired treatment though. As we mentioned earlier, back in 2015 a ‘Day of The Dead’ Nike Cortez was released in honor of the holiday, and the design was a lot more thematic than this year’s minimalist iteration.

Featuring a ‘papel picado’-inspired design on the inside, the stitching of the iconic Swoosh on the upper side of the shoe as well as on the soles, turns bright orange, reminiscent of cempasúchil and candle-lit ofrendas. The shoe is dressed in a nylon and suede floral print and has distinct embroidery on the heel.

The Day of The Dead Air Force 1s Glow in The Dark With Papel Picado-Inspired designs.

credit Twitter @unrtd

The iconic performance shoes were re-imagined to celebrate the Mexican holiday in the most subtle way. The classic silhouette has an all-white upper body, contrasted by piping in yellow, green, blue, pink and black, and also sports a black heel tab and stitching across the midsole. The best part though is that once the shoe’s in the dark, it reveals a glow-in-the-dark skull papel picado-inspired pattern that is fully reflective throughout the entire upper. It’s to die for!

The Nike Air Max 95 was reimagined for the occasion in muted colors and subtle touches of huichol-style graphics.

credit Twitter @RyoRyo719

Joining the AF1s and the Cortez, the Nike Air Max 95 will also be a part of the 2019 Day of The Dead Collection. The festive colorway of the Air Max 95 takes on a white mesh upper with the signature layered side panels taking on a textured/crackled leather appearance. The leather side panels are emblazoned with muted ‘Huichol’ or papel picado-inspired graphics to go along with the Mexican theme. The limited-edition shoe also features black leather mudguards, black Swoosh branding, speckled laces, and a black midsole that adds to the look, along with teal detailing on the skull graphic insoles, papel picado-style tongue branding, and translucent outsole.

There are 57 million Hispanics in the U.S. only, and they represent 18% of the country’s spending power— no wonder brands like Nike want to tap into Latino traditions.

credit Twitter @thesolesupplier

Over the past few years, companies and retailers have made it easier to get into the spirit of the holiday, offering themed apparel, home decor and containers in which to tote goodies. With 57 million Hispanics in the U.S. alone, this demographic represents almost 18 percent of the country’s population and significant spending power, according to Nielsen. In fact, the data analytics company expects its buying power to grow from $1.4 trillion in 2016 to $1.8 trillion by 2021. And that dollar strength isn’t lost on retailers.

‘Dia De Los Muertos’ celebrations run from  November 1st through November 2, and the Nike Air Force 1 will drop at retailers like Sneakersnstuff and nike.com on October 15. Priced at $100 USD, the festive sneakers are the ultimate day-to-day shoe to add to your rotation. The rest of this latest Nike Día de Muertos collection is scheduled to release on Nike.com and at select Nike retailers on Oct. 30.