September 14, 2012

Paul Frank vows to do better

After reporting on Paul Frank's Racist "Powwow," blogger Adrienne Keene had a productive phone call with the company president. She reports the outcome in her Native Appropriations blog:

Paul Frank Powwow Party Update: Am I dreaming?I could go on and on about the call, but enough background, here are the incredible, amazing, mind-boggling action steps that the company has taken and has promised to take in the near future:

  • They have already removed all of the Native inspired designs from their digital/online imprint.

  • The company works off a "Style Guide" that includes all of the digital art for the company, and then separate manufacturing companies license those images and turn them into products. Elie and his staff have gone through the style guide, even into the archives, and removed all of the Native imagery, meaning no future products will be produced with these images.

  • They have sent (or it will be sent today) a letter to all of their manufacturers and partners saying none of this artwork is authorized for use and it has been removed from their business.

  • Elie has invited Jessica and I to collaborate with him on a panel about the use of Native imagery in the industry to be held at the International Licensing Merchandisers Association (LIMA) conference in June. This would reach a large and incredibly influential audience all in one place.

  • And the MOST exciting part:

  • Paul Frank Industries would like to collaborate with a Native artist to make designs, where the proceeds would be donated to a Native cause!
  • Elie said he wants to learn how this can be done in an appropriate and respectful manner, and that they're not "looking to profit" from this. On top of it, we've set actionable next steps to make all of this happen, and he's even assigned staff members to stay on it so it doesn't slip through the cracks.

    I'm seriously still in disbelief--this is beyond a best case scenario. This is taking a relatively isolated event, and bringing it to a history-making level. These interactions with Mr. Dekel and Paul Frank can set the stage and create a model for any company in the future to follow, and by taking steps like the artist collaboration and the conference presentation, we're reaching far beyond the walls of Paul Frank.

    I often hear push back about the impossibility of pulling images or dealing with manufacturers on a large scale, but this just goes to show that when there is actual interest and dedication by company leadership, amazing things can happen.
    Comment:  This is a perfect example of how to respond when you've made a boneheaded mistake and stereotyped Indians. Kudos to everyone involved for doing the right thing.

    For more "Indians" parties that exemplify hipster racism, see University of Denver's Cowboys and Indians Party and Duke's "Pilgrims and Indians" Party.

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