Hipster mainstay Urban Outfitters has drawn the ire of the Navajo Nation for its “Navajo” branded clothing and accessories line, which includes a pair of low-waisted panties and an impossibly ill-advised liquor flask.
While Native American-inspired prints have long been a beloved staple of hipsters, Urban Outfitters actually labelled its line of oversized pullovers, sneakers and fringed bags as “Navajo,” a point taken none too kindly by the Navajo Nation government, which holds a dozen trademarks on the name, encompassing clothing, textiles, household products and other items. The government is demanding Urban Outfitters adopt another name for the line, reportedly sending the company a cease-and-desist letter in June.
“When products that have absolutely no connection to the Navajo Nation, its entities, its people, and their products are marketed and retailed under the guise that they are Navajo in origin, the Navajo Nation does not regard this as benign or trivial,” Brian Lewis, an attorney for the tribe, told the Associated Press.
So far, the company appears to have no plans to change the line: “The Native American-inspired trend and specifically the term 'Navajo' have been cycling through fashion, fine art and design for the last few years,” a spokesperson told AP.
It’s not the first time Urban Outfitters has been accused of problematic co-opting: Several indie designers have claimed the company has flagrantly ripped off their creations. Urban Outfitters also drew headlines in August when parents sued the chain after catching a glimpse of T-shirts that showed their model daughter – then underage – with her legs splayed atop a motorcycle.
With the current flap, Native American critics say Urban Outfitters is sexualizing and trivializing their ethnic symbols for corporate profit – which may be even worse than using it to promote hipster cred.
Would you wear faux-Navajo or is there something left to be said for authenticity?