June 18, 2013

Paul Frank announces Native collaboration

Paul Frank Announces First-Ever Fashion Collaboration with Native American Designers

Upcoming "Paul Frank Presents" Limited Edition Collection in partnership with four Native American artists

By Saban Brands
Paul Frank announced today its first-ever "Paul Frank Presents" fashion collaboration with four Native American designers from different tribes and regions across the country. Set to debut in August 2013, the collaboration fuses the iconic Paul Frank brand with four different artists' aesthetics, each rooted in their heritage. The collection, which will include a tote bag, hand-beaded sunglasses, graphic tees and Hama bead jewelry is an expression of the Native American culture and a way for the artists to integrate their perspective and tribal identity into fashion.

Drawing inspiration from their communities, each artist is bringing to life a visual identity with roots from their culture. Louie Gong, a designer from the Nooksack tribe who creates custom drawings and paintings on materials, is creating a silk-screened canvas tote bag for the collection. Candace Halcro, from the Plains Cree/Metis tribes, is skilled with the classic Native American beading technique and will showcase her talents on authentic Paul Frank sunglasses. Dustin Martin, a graphic T-shirt fashion designer from the Navajo tribe, is using a phrase taught to him by his grandfather to inspire the prints of the famous Paul Frank character, Julius. And Autumn Dawn Gomez, a jewelry designer from the Comanche/Taos tribes, is creating accessories inspired by various landscapes, which have impacted her life.

"We're honored to be working with such talented and enthusiastic designers for this fashion and accessories collection," said Elie Dekel, President of Saban Brands. "Each artist has really captured the whimsical and fun energy of the Paul Frank brand and incorporated it into their designs for the line. We are so excited to share these items with Paul Frank fans very soon!"
Paul Frank, Native American artists collaborate on accessories

By Booth MooreAfter so many egregious misappropriations of Native American culture by fashion brands (“Navajo” T-shirts at Urban Outfitters and feather headdresses on the runway at Victoria’s Secret), it was interesting to see this come across my email.

The whimsical Los Angeles-based Paul Frank, the brand that turned a sock monkey into a fashion statement, is collaborating with four different tribes in regions across the country in what seems to be an authentic way, giving artists the opportunity to design accessories for a special “Paul Frank Presents” collection launching in August on PaulFrank.com.
Backstory omitted

I presume the LA Times story was based on the press release. Oddly, something seemed to be missing from both articles. What could it be?

The Paul Frank x Native Designers Collaboration is Here!

By Adrienne KeeneI don’t know if it struck you, but noticed right away an omission from the press release. There’s no mention of why this collaboration came about. I wouldn’t expect a whole re-hashing of the “Dream Catchin’ Powwow” fiasco, but maybe a mention of the fact that this collaboration came in response to an insensitive party?

I’m about to go all PhD on you here, so bear with me, but Dr. Bryan Brayboy at ASU often uses the term “Genesis Amnesia” (from Pierre Bourdieu) to discuss how, especially in regards to Indigenous and colonized peoples, we often forget the beginning. Everything becomes normalized–the power structures, the historical narrative taught in schools, policies towards Indigenous Peoples–and society accepts this as “the way it’s always been” and stops wondering why. Hegemonic power structures rely on us forgetting the beginning. Native peoples are “poor” and “alcoholics” because they are “lazy” or “unmotivated,” not because of centuries of systematic policies that have worked to put us in this position. Hipster headdresses are a fashion trend because they’re “fun” or “playful,” not because centuries of colonialism have painted Native traditions and spirituality as inferior and stripped the objects of their sacred origins, leaving them up for grabs.

So what does that have to do with Paul Frank? As much as it feels uncomfortable, we can’t forget the beginning. We can’t move away from the fact that this collaboration was born out of community mobilization and Native activism against a hurtful, racist party. Because if we erase that beginning, 20 years from now, Paul Frank is just seen as the happy company that collaborates with Natives–which is great, don’t get me wrong–but that takes away the power of what has been accomplished here. Remembering the origins reminds us of the inherent power structures in society (and therefore the fashion industry), that it took hundreds of angry voices, Native and non-Native, working together to move us forward this far. Remembering the beginning is how we continue to move forward together. History is written by those in power, so we need to continue to push to have our version shared and not forgotten.
Paul Frank Native American-designed collection an apology for powwow party?

By Booth MooreOn Tuesday, I wrote a post about the new "Paul Frank Presents" collection of accessories designed in collaboration with Native American artists. ... But I failed to include the backstory. Dr. Jessica R. Metcalfe, a Turtle Mountain Chippewa from North Dakota, who writes about Native American art, fashion and design, as well as owning and operating the site BeyondBuckskin.com, where many of the artists tapped by Paul Frank sell their designs, elaborates on the collaboration in an illuminating post here.

"While I am undeniably thrilled about the announcement and all that it represents, the press release failed to mention the various factors that led to this collaboration," Metcalfe writes. "Last September, the lifestyle brand Paul Frank hosted a "powwow"-inspired fashion event that featured some questionable party favors and activities."

"After a sizable backlash from people from Native American communities and our allies, the brand removed over a thousand images of the event from their Facebook page, and the president of the company, Elie Dekel, reached out to myself and Adrienne Keene of Native Appropriations. He reached out to the two of us, I think, because we had been the loudest in pointing out the obvious racism behind this event ... and so it began--the gesturing to apologize for this major slip-up," Metcalfe writes.

Although Paul Frank's collaboration with Native American artists will undoubtedly help bring the work of these talented young people to a wider audience, the company should have been forthcoming in press materials about the journey it took to get here. Because what is corporate responsibility without full disclosure?
Comment:  Oh, yeah...that. The reason this whole collaboration came about. Paul Frank must've forgotten to mention it.

For more on the subject, see Paul Frank Vows to Do Better and Paul Frank's Racist "Powwow."

Below:  "Paul Frank parent company Saban Brands President Elie Dekel, surrounded by products featuring Julius the Monkey at the company's office in Century City on June 7, 2011." (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

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