September 25, 2011

Neo-Navajo fashion trend

Another article takes up the subject introduced by Adrienne Keene in Urban Outfitters' "Native" Products:

Neo-Navajo fashion:  Trend or tradition?

By Jaimee RoseAt Neiman Marcus, just racks away from Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's latest leather offering, there's a kicky cashmere shift dress--all geometry in deep red, black and cream--that looks exactly like the Navajo blanket on display in the Heard Museum (hand-loomed in 1880, just so you know).

At Forever 21 in Scottsdale, mannequins wear $8 feather necklaces while posed in positions not unlike a ceremonial dance--and the sign in the window says "Into the Wild." (Made in China, and you don't want to know.)

Diane von Furstenberg is on a $365 "Native Hound" print parade. September style magazines trumpet the look with multipage shopping guides headlined "Hail to the Chief." Teenagers are buying woolly shawls. Shawls!

From the omnivorous minds of fashion designers, who want us in soldier chic one minute and Bollywood brilliance the next, a communal word emerged as the Gospel of Fall: "neo-Navajo!" they declared, flinging Navajo iconography all across the mall.
Since Rose refers to the same Navajo Hipster Panties that caught my eye, I'm guessing she read Keene's blog entry.

"Navajo" represents all Indians?

Rose notes some problems with labeling everything "Navajo":We wonder what the people who write product descriptions for Intermix were thinking when they penned "The new Navajo: ethnic Aztec inspiration" (different country, different tribe).

We are not sure it was in the best taste for Urban Outfitters to offer a Navajo-inspired flask, because there's a history there. It's complicated.

And we are dying to hear from the Navajo people themselves--who would be well within their rights to have their Navajo hipster panties in a twist, considering the Telegraph newspaper in London told its readers to "channel your inner Pocahontas."

Pocahontas wasn't Navajo. She was from Virginia.
And:We did, however, receive an offer to publicize trendy labels with the following pitch from a fashion house in New York:

"Pay homage to our past while looking marvelously modern with Navajo-inspired styles from Chelsea Flower, Love Sam, DL1961 Premium Denim & Cult of Individuality . . . On-trend and simply chic--minus the Headdress. Pack the teepee (or the closet) with (items) that will be sure to become closet staples."

Teepee? Headdress?

Hail to the grief.
Comment:  I think Keene and Rose have the basic problem right. This "neo-Navajo trend" is an example of hipster racism. The thinking goes something like this:

"Let's steal appropriate Native designs and label them 'Navajo' or 'Cherokee' because those tribes are well-known. Let's market them as pan-Indian tribalism because that's less 'commercial' and more 'natural' and 'authentic.' There are no real Indians left and they were primitive savages anyway, so no one will object."

For more on "tribal" trendiness, see Luxury Tipis in Great Britain and TeePee Games Responds to Criticism.

Below:  "Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask." So you can feel like an Indian when you get drunk.

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