February 18, 2015

KTZ rips off Native designs

Another fashion faux pas involving Native appropriations:

New York Fashion Week Designer steals from Northern Cheyenne/Crow artist Bethany Yellowtail

By Adrienne KeeneI write about cultural appropriation in fashion a lot. I’ve taken on big brands and small brands, arguing that our images and cultural property should be taken seriously. But today, things got personal. Brand KTZ’s Fall/Winter line at New York Fashion Week was “a tribute” to Indigenous peoples. There’s a lot to critique in the line (and I will), but nestled among the 45 looks was this dress:

Does it look familiar? It might, because it is a DIRECT rip-off of my friend Bethany Yellowtail’s design from her Crow Pop Collection. ... If you need a side-by-side:
Notice the form of the dress is the same, with the collar, the length, the shape, and the designs are clearly “inspired” by Bethany’s. Here’s the thing. Bethany’s design is not just a collection of abstract shapes, she utilized Crow beadwork that had been in her family for generations for her design. The colors, the shapes, and the patterns have meaning, origins, and history. They belong to her family and tribe. They are cultural property, not designs that are free for the taking.And:So why is it that Indigenous intellectual property is not seen as “real” intellectual property? Yes, the boundaries are difficult to find and difficult to enforce–but if KTZ had directly ripped off images from, say Valentino, or Yves Saint Laurent, or, shoot, McDonalds or Apple or anyone else, there would be a major case to be made about violations of intellectual property rights, and people would scoff at his lack of creativity. But “primitive” or in his words, “primal” peoples are not ever given the same consideration. Our designs and cultural markers are used to “enhance” white culture, while white cultural artifacts are protected and policed.

The bottom line is this: There should be no representations of us, without us. You want to draw upon Indigenous cultures for your line? Involve Indigenous artists and designers. There is no alternative answer. You love Bethany’s Crow designs? Call Bethany. Collaborate with Bethany. Give her a chance to show at New York Fashion Week with you. The fashion world costs hella money to get a foot in the door, so if you as a designer truly want to offer a “tribute” to Native people? Bring a Native designer up with you.
KTZ's Latest Collection: A Racist Ripoff

By Dr. Jessica R. MetcalfeIf you still don’t understand what the big issue is, please read Jezebel’s A Much Needed Primer on Culture Appropriation, especially when I say this little ditty:"There isn't just one Native American culture. There are hundreds. And there are millions of Native people. And we're being ignored. We're being told that we don't have rights over how we are represented in mainstream America. We are being told that we should 'get over it'–but the people who are saying this don't even know what the issues are. When people know of us only as a 'costume,' or something you dress up as for Halloween or for a music video, then you stop thinking of us as people, and this is incredibly dangerous because everyday we fight for the basic human right to live our own lives without outsiders determining our fate or defining our identities."Pejoski blatantly disregards this basic fact, and creates a mish-mash–combining Navajo weaving designs with Crow beadwork patterns, and Plains bone breastplates with Southwest turquoise jewelry.

And let’s talk about those Navajo designs: one of them is of a sacred ye’ii–the embodiment of Navajo deities–that Pejoski put on a leather corset dress. Red flag #2. There is a colonial history of stealing, selling and buying Native American sacred items.

KTZ Accused of Ripping Off Crow Designer’s Patterns

By Jihan ForbesAdrienne calls Pejoski’s interpretation a “mockery and a celebration of cultural theft.” While it is hardly a crime or an offense to be inspired by other cultures, as we know, it becomes a different animal altogether when the source of inspiration is not given the kind of credit they deserve. Still, it is difficult to say whether or not Pejoski ripped off Yellowtail’s designs (we don’t know for sure if it was Yellowtail’s particular designs or even something he saw on Tumblr or on the street that could have prompted him to design something like this). It is difficult to imagine that someone working in fashion would be ignorant of the highly sensitive nature of borrowing from other cultures, particularly Native Americans. There has been quite a bit of backlash against designers, festival goers and celebrities who choose to don headdresses or put them on a runway. Unless you live under a rock, it’s hard not to notice these instances.‘Native American-inspired’ Fashion Week collection offends and enrages actual Native Americans

By Marjon CarlosAttempting to celebrate diversity by sizably poaching the work of creatives of color sends a message that fashion’s interest is ephemeral and purely surface. But for indigenous cultures, these ornamental elements are part of a long-standing tradition, and often sacred. Style.com praised the clothes for their detailing and “spirit,” but this collection reinforces a painful history of domination, subjugation, prejudice and discrimination that has been blindly truncated into ill-conceived modifiers, such as arrows atop a model’s head. As Keene suggests, rather than ripping off Yellowtail’s designs or the traditional handwork of Native tribes, fashion designers need to actually collaborate and work with Native artisans to curve this continual mishandling and erasure. Instances like KTZ’s collection show that while cultural appropriation remains a weighted subject, what detractors really want in return is simply inclusion.

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