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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.”

Five Tribal Leaders Have Been Assassinated Across Colombia And The Government Blames FARC Rebels

Things That Matter

Five Tribal Leaders Have Been Assassinated Across Colombia And The Government Blames FARC Rebels

Tom Laffay / Getty

President Iván Duque traveled to Colombia’s southwest in the wake of what he called the “assassination” of five indigenous leaders. According to the Associated Press, leaders of the Tacueyo reservation were killed this week when they were ambushed by gunmen that belong to a faction of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (also known as FARC). 

The leaders’ armored SUV was attacked by a small group of defectors with hand grenades and guns who do not support the now-defunct FARC’s peace treaty with the government. The gunmen continued to shoot even as ambulances arrived to help the wounded. Duque condemned the act of violence that injured six and killed five, including Cristina Bautista, the spiritual leader of the semi-autonomous reservation and the top authority. 

The Nasa indigenous guard try to thwart the assassination.

The Nasa indigenous group resides in the Cauca province of southwest Colombia. When the Nasa indigenous guard attempted to stop a car for a routine check, a group of dissidents including a leader demanded to pass through. After a standoff, the guard alarmed other locals to gather. The rebels opened fire and used hand grenades to attack the indigenous leaders. 

The Nasa are semi-autonomous and administer, patrol, and govern their own region. The guard consists of volunteers and does not consider themselves a police force, according to BBC. They are unarmed mediators who carry wooden staffs. 

Indigenous leaders believe Duque’s visit is too little, too late.

Since Colombia’s 2016 peace accord, dozens of indigenous and social leaders have been assassinated. Militant dissidents have used violent methods to take control over former rebel territories and drug routes. 

In the Cauca state, one of the country’s most lucrative and fast-growing regions for cocaine production, 14 tribal members have been killed. 

“Our only weapon is our unity and spirituality,” Luis Acosta, national coordinator of the indigenous guards, told Associated Press. “[The dissidents] don’t allow us to control our territories because we reject the logic of war.”

Colombian indigenous communities have consistently decried the government’s complacency in what they say is a “genocide” where they have become collateral damage in ongoing conflicts between leftist rebels, state security forces, and right-wing paramilitaries. 

Colombia’s government launches a military offensive to detain the dissidents.

The government launched an initial investigation that suggested the act was in retaliation to the capture of three Farc defectors by indigenous locals. 

“Clearly, here we have a longstanding threat of drug trafficking groups, and of dissidents, who want to intimidate the population,” Duque told reporters, according to The Guardian.  “I hope to make some important announcements about operational capacity in the region and the capacity we will have to face these threats.” 

However, many felt Duque was just paying lip service. 

“The region where this massacre took place is a first-tier zone for violence, and the defense sector surely knows this but the response to repeated calls for help from indigenous communities has been far from adequate,” Adam Isacson, a security analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, told reporters.

Opposition politicians accuse the government of genocide.

“What is underway in Colombia is an indigenous genocide, and it will not stop if international justice does not appear,” Senator Gustavo Petro tweeted. 

While the 2016 peace accord was meant to end a civil war that displaced 7 million Colombians and killed 260,000, violence has become the status quo for the Cauca province. A residual power vacuum leftover by Farc appears to have causedconflicts over territory, drug routes, land rights, and resources where indigenous people are often targets.

 Just last month, Karina García a mayoral candidate and three others on the campaign were murdered. Since 2016, according to Colombia’s human rights ombudsman, 486 activists and human rights defenders have been murdered. 

“The government says the right things, but doesn’t do anything,” said Eduin Marcelo Capaz, an indigenous human rights coordinator said. “Duque will say whatever he has to to cover up his government’s ineffectiveness and disinterest in protecting us.”

United Nations and the Organization of American States urge Colombia’s government to end violence against indigenous groups.  

Last April, the UN and OAS urged Duque to avoid violence in the Cauca province as tensions escalated between indigenous folk and dissidents. 

“Dialogue is fundamental to attend to social demands and is the only solution that contains violence, alongside a focus on human rights, the strengthening of democracies and the rule of law,” the office of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights urged. 

Only time will tell if Colombia’s promise to protect its indigenous folk is real because so far it hasn’t been. 

“People are being left unprotected by their government in an area that is being disputed among several armed and criminal groups,” Isacson said. “Colombia must prioritize protecting these communities, working with their leaderships, to prevent another horrible tragedy.”

Here Are 13 Cringeworthy Times That Gringos Totally Ruined Día De Muertos With Cultural Appropriation

Culture

Here Are 13 Cringeworthy Times That Gringos Totally Ruined Día De Muertos With Cultural Appropriation

007: Spectre / Colombia Pictures

First things first: Day of the Dead is a solemn tradition for Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. Although celebrating it in different ways is great, and culture should be shared rather than zealously kept for oneself, some traditions need to be treated respectfully. 

1. When this model wore this awful jacket and promoted this photo on her Insta.

Credit: Instagram / sophiecochivelou

Seriously, sugar skulls are not always the way to go. And, dear, your face is kinda hidden among all this mess of fabric. 

2. When this poor dog’s owners turned it into a catrina.

Credit: Instagram / izzy_the_chow

Some people just travel great lengths to turn their pets into social media celebrities. News alert: this is not smart, funny or cute. It is just plain weird. Does this classify as near-animal cruelty?

3. When gringos just assume that Day of the Dead is “Mexican” for Halloween…

Credit: Instagram / erin_grant

Dear Erin Grant: what on Earth is this strange melange of traditions? 

4. When they came up with the brilliant idea of making Día de Muertos pumpkins…What the?!

Credit: Instagram / chalkwithlove_insta

Yes, así como lo oyen. Gringos and some gringo-influenced-Latinos have started painting their pumpkins with what looks like a mix between The Nightmare Before Christmas and a sugar skull. Dude, at least make the effort to carve the damn thing! 

5.When they thought making catrinas sexy was cool.

Credit: Instagram / themodelgypsyrose

By eroticizing catrinas, gringos like this super-Anglo model, get it totally wrong. Mexican folklore does not mix sex and death… like, at all! Also, this type of cultural appropriation perpetuates stereotypes of Latinos being hypersexual and lusty (not that there is anything wrong with that…). 

6. When Pinterest and Etsy cultures discovered Day of the Dead and come up with kitschy and horrible ideas.

Credit: Instagram / curiousburrow

First of all, sloths are natives of Costa Rica, not Mexico (despite what some gringos might think, including people in government), Central America is not just an extension of Mexico. Well, we gotta admit this is kinda cute but as far away removed from tradition as possible. 

7. When these boots represented an affront to tradition and to any sense of good taste.

Credit: Instagram / mysugarskulls_com

Gringos tend to throw all non-white things in the same basket. These awful boots are a perfect example: yeah, just have a Native-American moccasin with some sugar skulls. Hey, gringos might even claim that these botitas have mystical powers, hey? Remember that time when white folk hung dream-catchers everywhere?! 

8. When Day of the Dead became Insta-ready.

Credit: Instagram / littlebongbaddie_

Don’t you miss those times when not everything was staged and ready to be photographed? Scenes like these are sorta tiernas, but so far removed from the more rustic and spontaneous spirit of Day of the Dead. Seriously, this looks like out of a Pottery Barn catalog y’all. 

9. When the James Bond franchise fabricated a parade that was full of every single cliche imaginable.

Credit: 007: Spectre / Columbia Pictures

Let’s get something straight: contrary to what is shown in the Hollywood extravaganza Spectre, Mexico City did not use to celebrate Day of the Dead with a huge parade that looks more like Mardi Gras (we love Mardi Gras by the way!) than a solemn celebration. But the city saw an opportunity for tourism and is now organizing a James Bond-style parade each year. Yes, Hollywood cultural appropriation at its peak! 

10. When some racist dudes hate Mexicans but love their best traditions

This tweet captures the sentiment perfectly. On one hand some gringos reject anything that is Latino or the idea of immigration. But if it has to do with colonizing a festivity and do so with low racist undertones, they are all there. Sounds familiar?

11. When brands just wanna make a quick buck.

Credit: Promotional shot / Old El Paso

As if Old El Paso didn’t have a long history of cultural and culinary appropriation, they often use Day of the Dead as a marketing ploy to lure unsuspecting customers. Look, we all love some good Tex-Mex, but let’s not forget that this food is not really Mexican. 

12. When slot machine companies want to fool paisanos into losing their money.

One of the most predatory industries in the world is the gambling entertainment complex, particularly when it comes to slot machines. The practice of including imagery that could trigger a cultural connection with gambling has been widely criticized, as it masks the fact that gambling is potentially dangerous when it comes to issues of addiction. Not cool at all. 

13. And seriously, we can’t get over the Día de Muertos pumpkins

What is this atrocity? Fuchi! At least make a bit of an effort, dude.