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‘Tribal,’‘Boho,’ ‘Mexican-Inspired,’ And ‘Exotic’ Are Fashion Cues For Cultural Appropriation—Here Are Some Examples

Taking inspiration from other cultures has been a trend in the fashion world since time immemorial. Cultural elements can often be found on the runway, “re-interpreted” by the fashion designer’s understanding of the culture she or he’s drawing inspiration from. From Geisha-inspired makeup and kimonos, to “tribal” and Navajo-esque designs, every fashion house has taken images or elements from other cultures to let their creativity run amok. 

Taking or wearing things from a culture that is not your own —especially without crediting or showing respect to the people it belongs to, is appropriation, not appreciation.

instagram @dsquared2

The simplification of a culture and even the violation of a minority group’s intellectual property rights are among some of the serious issues involved around cultural appropriation —not to mention the perpetuation of stereotypes and just the plain disrespect. We went ahead and put together a list of instances in which the dominant cultures in the fashion industry have taken the liberty of “re-imagining” and drawing inspiration from minority cultures for their own gain, just to set a “trend.”

1. Victoria’s Secret misusing War Bonnets —apologizing for it, then doing it again. SMH.

In 2017, Victoria’s Secret sent a white model down the runway in their version of an American Indian War Bonnet. The incident happened 5 years after top model Karlie Kloss famously wore another insensitive “headdress” during the televised show. The company gave a weak apology after the first faux-pas and then proceeded to do it again.

This account of cultural appropriation was especially problematic given that the context hyper sexualized indigenous women. And given that more than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence, and more than 1 in 2 have experienced sexual violence, the stereotype is a problematic and unhealthy one.

2. Carolina Herrera using the traditional ‘Zarape’ print

twitter @cuauhtemoc_1521

Founded, and formerly helmed by the Latina Carolina Herrera herself, this instance of cultural appropriation was a true shock to Latinos everywhere. The new creative director of the brand, Wes Gordon “took inspiration” from the Serape print originally from Saltillo, Mexico. The collection featured the colorful print and copies of Indigenous Mexican embroidery. Needless to say the people who have created this aesthetic for centuries went uncredited. 

3. Isabel Marant blatantly COPIED a traditional Oaxacan garment —and went as far as to patent it.

twittwe @wendulainelalo

Ok, so this one is especially wild. The French designer known for her “boho-chic” aesthetic was under fire in 2015 for literally COPYING a traditionally indigenous design, typical of Oaxaca. It was reported that the French government had issued a patent document to the authority of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, Oaxaca, to prevent the inhabitants of the municipality from selling their indigenous designs —THEIR own designs, which have belonged to their peoples for centuries. 

The document was said to suggest that Isabel Marant and another French company, Antik Batik, owned the patent to the embroidered blouses —and that the Mexican community of Oaxaca would need to pay copyright fees in order to sell them, which understandably enraged the local people. The two French companies were accused of plagiarism in respect of the embroidered blouses which took inspiration from the country’s artisanal designs.

4. Navajo or “tribal” prints appropriated by Urban Outfitters —and fashion in general.

urban outfitters

In 2016 Urban Outfitters won a trademark case filed against them by the Navajo Nation. New Mexico Federal Judge Bruce D. Black accepted the hipster retailer’s trademark fair use defense, thus approving the company’s decision to brand panties, flasks, and other products as “Navajo.” As the basis to their argument, Urban Outfitter’s explained that the term has “acquired a descriptive meaning within the fashion and accessory market…the fashion industry has adopted ‘Navajo’ to describe a type of style or print.” 

The Navajo Nation is a tribe rich with history and tradition, not to mention they function under their own government, and run a college and a museum on the reservation. Yet somehow, our legal system permits an entire culture to be reduced to a style of print.

5. Chanel’s grossly expensive boomerang

instagram @jefreestar

The boomerang is a tool used by Native Australians, and it dates back to 50,000 years ago. As aboriginal activist, Nayuka Gorrie eloquently put it: “Having a luxury brand swoop in, appropriate, sell our technologies and profit from our cultures for an absurd amount of money is ridiculous and hurtful,” she explained. “If Chanel truly want to respect Aboriginal cultures, the first place they should start is discontinue this product and issue an apology. Perhaps the next step would be supporting existing black designers.” Chanel slapped its logo on it and sold the boomerang for a whopping $1325 dollars. 

6. Mara Hoffman’s “Otomi-inspired” swim collection

credit poppies and ice cream blog

The American swim and beachwear designer “designed” and entire collection —bikinis, coverups and dresses included— using Mexican Otomi embroidery and turning it into a print. The website described the design as a “colorful exotic animal print,” with no mention of the indigenous people who own and have made these designs for centuries. WTF !!! Where is the credit?

The traditional embroidery is handmade by the Otomi people in Tenango de Doria, Hidalgo, and the designs are referred to colloquially as “Tenangos.”

7. KTZ copying an Inuit design.

twitter @museumatfit

The London-based streetwear brand has been accused of stealing and copying indigenous designs more than once. In this occasion, it was a design from a sacred Canadian Inuit garment worn by a shaman. The design was reproduced, altered ever so slightly and released as a part of the brand’s Fall Winter collection of 2015. The famous shaman’s granddaughter complained about the appropriation resulting in the company’s half-assed apology and discontinuation of the product. 

8. Nike “Huaraches”

twitter @runningwatches2

I for one, was surprised that the general mainstream wasn’t screaming cultural appropriation at this, when people didn’t even know how to pronounce the word “huarache” smh.

Nike’s “Huarache” sneakers first of all, look nothing like the pre-Columbian indigenous shoe. The sports brand just stole the name and took Tarahumara runners as inspiration for their shoes —might’ve been nice if they had at least gifted a few pairs to the indigenous runners. You know, after Nike “took inspiration” from their culture, and all. 

9. Michael Kors’ Mexican hoodie copy-cat

twitter @santiagopgm

Some outlets reported that the black and grey hoodie “closely resembled” a Mexican sweater. Um, no, it was pretty identical. The issue was first brought to light when Santiago Perez Grovas, a photographer and architect from Mexico City, posted an image on Twitter which showed him in a sweater that looked just like the Michael Kors one. 

“New collection by MichaelKors that probably costs thousands of pesos…-Sweatshirt that I bought in the market of Coyoacan two years ago for 200 pesos,” he wrote, sharing two images.

10. Everyone at Coachella

twitter @missIsisking

Every year at the festival we see an array of war bonnets, bindis, corn rows and many other cultural references trivialized and used as fashion props. In an attempt at looking “bohemian,” “earthy” or “vintage” —this one’s especially terrible— attendees just end up stealing other peoples sacred elements and identities to parade around while drunk. Don’t be that person.

11. Dsquared2’s “DSquaw” collection

instagram @dsquared2

So, twin designers Dean and Dan, originally from Canada, decided to rip-off Native American designs and send them down the runway. It doesn’t end there though. the title of the collection, “DSquaw,” drew on a derogatory term for Native American women, and the equally offensive description of the runway show’s aesthetic—”the enchantment of Canadian Indian tribes” and “the confident attitude of the British aristocracy”—was posted to the fashion brand’s Facebook.

Dsquared2’s glamorization of colonialism feels particularly off-key considering the headlines about violence against Aboriginal women and girls in Canada. As Canadians themselves, how can two people —and their entire teams— be so tone-deaf?

12. Ralph Lauren’s Native American Ads

twitter @kfor

The clothing brand released an online campaign in 2015 featuring imagery harked back to the Old West. In faded sepia tones, the ad showed a Native American sporting a feathered “headdress” and holding a rifle across his lap. The page read “Western Style” —and our eyes are rolling to the back of our heads rn. 

The tone-deaf ads reduced people, actually no, entire cultures, to mere marketing props. Many called for a boycott. Dr. Adrienne Keene, a postdoctoral researcher and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, wrote in a post for Indian Country Today Media Network that Ralph Lauren had reached a “new low.”

“Ralph Lauren has been doing this my whole life,” Ruth Hopkins, a writer in her 30s who lives on the Spirit Lake Tribe reservation in North Dakota, told The Huffington Post. “He is a repeat offender. Cultural appropriation is apparently his thing.”

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This Is What Mexico’s AMLO Wants From The Pope For The Churches Crimes Against Indigenous Mexicans

Things That Matter

This Is What Mexico’s AMLO Wants From The Pope For The Churches Crimes Against Indigenous Mexicans

Massimo Valicchia / Getty Images

As Mexico prepares to mark the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (or AMLO) is demanding a formal apology from the Catholic Church for its role in the violent colonization of his country.

It’s no secret that the Catholic Church played a major part in the deaths of millions of Indigenous peoples across the Americas, as the church supported Spain’s conquest of the region. The church built missions throughout the country and often forcibly converted Indigenous people to Christianity.

Now, Mexico’s AMLO wants the church to right its wrongs with a formal apology and the return of several Mexican artifacts that are currently in the hands of the church.

Mexico’s President AMLO has asked Pope Francis for a formal apology for the atrocities committed by the church.

Mexico’s president has published an open letter to Pope Francis calling on the Roman Catholic Church to apologize for abuses of Indigenous peoples during the conquest of Mexico in the 1500s.

“The Catholic Church, the Spanish monarchy and the Mexican government should make a public apology for the offensive atrocities that Indigenous people suffered,” the letter states.

The letter was delivered to the pope by AMLO’s wife, Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller, who met with him at the Vatican following a meeting she had on Friday with Italian president, Sergio Mattarella.

In addition to an apology, AMLO asked the Pope to make a statement in favor of Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico’s 19th-century independence leader who was once believed to have been excommunicated by the church for his involvement in the uprising. However, researchers later said it appeared that Hidalgo had confessed his sins before he was executed and thus was not excommunicated.

AMLO said: “I think it would be an act of humility and at the same time greatness” for the church to reconcile posthumously with Hidalgo.

The letter comes as Mexico struggles with how to mark the 500th anniversary of the 1519-1521 conquest, which resulted in the death of a large part of the country’s pre-Hispanic population. In fact, the letter came the same day that authorities in Mexico City removed a statue dedicated to Christopher Columbus that protesters had threatened to knock down.

So what exactly is in the letter and what does AMLO want from the Vatican?

Besides the formal apology, President AMLO also asked that the Vatican return to MExico three codices, including the Codex Borgia – an especially colourful screen-fold book spread across dozens of pages that depicts gods and rituals from ancient central Mexico.

It is one of the best-preserved examples of pre-conquest Aztec-style writing that exists, after Catholic authorities in colonial-era Mexico dismissed such codices as the work of the devil and ordered hundreds or even thousands of them burned in the decades following the 1521 conquest.

The president is also hoping the Vatican will return ancient maps of the city of Tenochtitlan (modern day Mexico City) that were taken amid the conquest of the city. AMLO hopes to exhibit the three codices and ancient maps for the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Spaniards.

This isn’t the first time that AMLO has demanded apologies from foreign governments.

In 2019, López Obrador asked Spain for an apology for the conquest, in which millions of Indigenous people died from violence and disease. However, the Spanish government completely rejected the request saying at the time that Spain “will not issue these apologies that have been requested.”

The Catholic church played a key role as Spain colonized the Americas and spread its empire, setting up missions to convert Indigenous people to Christianity, often through violence and coercion.

Although the Vatican hasn’t yet apologized to Mexico for its part in the conquest, the Pope has done so in the past. In fact, in 2015, Pope Francis apologized to Bolivia over the church’s role in oppression in Latin America during the Spanish colonial era.

So far, the Vatican hasn’t yet responded to AMLO’s request, however, it’s museums and archives have often lent out various manuscripts and works of art after similar requests from other countries.

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Día De Muertos Takes Over The Sneaker World With New Collection By Nike

Culture

Día De Muertos Takes Over The Sneaker World With New Collection By Nike

Nike

Mexico’s famed Día de Muertos celebration seems to be everywhere these days. Following the James Bond film Spectre – which featured several scenes amid a fictional Day of the Dead parade – Mexico City created the parade just to satisfy people’s demands.

Now, Día de Muertos is being picked up by brands from all over the world as a way to pay tribute to the popular, traditional holiday (and likely make some money in the process…)

Nike is the latest brand to announce its own Día de Muertos collection and it’s already got fans of the iconic brand ready and waiting with their wallets in hand.

Nike announced its latest Día de Muertos collection which is set to debut later this month.

Last week, the footwear company announced it will be releasing its 2020 Día de Muertos collection later this month, ahead of the Mexican holiday where families gather to celebrate their loved ones who have passed away.

According to Nike’s announcement, the collection includes four styles of shoes including the Air Max 90, the DBreak Type, the Blazer Mid and the Air Jordan 1, all with unique designs that have “a modern approach grounded in art and culture.”

“Día de Muertos’s traditional ofrendas, or altars, serve as the design inspiration behind each of the silhouettes and apparel pieces, with colors, patterns and crafted details nodding to the delicate, handmade artwork of papel picado and flowers typically seen at an altar,” the announcement said.

In addition to the four noteworthy sneaker types that will be available, the collection also includes t-shirts and a sweatshirt, all of which will likely sell out fast – so have your wallet ready!

Nike’s Día de Muertos collection is known for its festive colors and iconic designs.

Credit: Nike

The Nike Day of the Dead sneakers are the sneakers that the swoosh brand launches every year to celebrate the Day of the Dead in Mexico. It is an annual celebration and remembrance, known for its striking iconography and festive colors.

Using the traditional Mexican Cempasúchil flower as a common thread and interpreting the motto “Para Mi Familia”, the four models are colorful tributes to the members of the family, both present and past.

Each pair is based on the traditional Day of the Dead ofrendas (altars), using bright color schemes and intricate details that salute the delicate papel picado and flowers that often surround them.

Some of the pieces — specifically the T-shirts, sweatshirt, the DBreak Type and the Air Jordan 1 — even have the phrase “Para Mi Familia” written on them, to bring the collection “back to the notion of family,” the announcement said.

The collection will even feature a special, limited edition Nike Air Jordan 1.

Credit: Nike

First up are the Nike Air Jordan 1 mid-cut shoe. It combines a white base with purple and gold overlays, provides a “Family” touch on the fender, special details on the tongue badge and insoles and a cracked leather around the neck.

If you’re looking for color, then the Air Max 90 will likely be your first choice.

Credit: Nike

The Nike Air Max 90 shoe is the most vibrant shoe of the bunch, covered from toe to heel in playful, swirling patterns that use multiple shades of red, yellow and orange.

Nike’s latest Día de Muertos collection is already available at Nike stores in Mexico but it the collection will be available globally in the Nike App SNKRS from the 15th of October.

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