The latest fashion news scandal, aside from the ongoing New York vs. Milan fashion week stand off, concerns the use of the word Navajo. The Navajo Nation has a trademark on its name, and made headlines when it sent Urban Outfitters a cease and desist letter for selling items called "Navajo hipster panties" and a "Navajo flask." Urban Outfitters has since renamed these items the "Printed Hipster Panty" and the "Printed Fabric Wrapped Flask" but that hasn't stopped Barneys' fashion director, the girl-crush worthy Amanda Brooks, from writing a post on Barneys' "The Window" blog about all things Navajo.
The post is titled "Navajo Nation: Amanda Brooks tries out fall's hottest print," and it features items from Barneys and sources inspiration photos of Joni Mitchell, Emmanuelle Alt, Daria Werbowy, and the female equivalent of the Native American from the Village People (see: white bikini and headdress).
Brooks writes, "The Navajo trend isn’t exactly news at this point, but I must admit, it took me a while to catch on." Except that it is news--national, major retailer lawsuit, news. Of course there's also the closing sentence, which, um, well, here it is: "And if you’re truly a 'lady of the canyon' and want to dive into the look head-to-toe, just go for it. If you feel that strongly, I’m sure you can pull it off."
Of course Brooks isn't the only person working in fashion to have described a trend as Navajo. Jezebel points out that lady mags like Cosmo and Lucky are describing clothes as "Navajo" in their current issues and we're certainly guilty of using Navajo as a descriptor, too.
So we've learned our lesson and hope other fashion outlets have as well. Using the word Navajo to describe a print or trend not only has racist undertones, but it also infringes on the Navajo Nation's trademark. And as Jezebel's Dodai Stewart points out, "[S]ince the Navajo Nation does indeed exist in the here and now, the description is just undermining and demeaning...The unemployment rate in the Navajo Nation is around 42%; the median family income is $22,392; and 43% of its residents live below the poverty rate. Not very luxe."
Remember those full page ads Chanel took out in WWD to inform people that using Chanel as a descriptor was copyright infringement? Same deal here.
So how to describe this trend? Native American-inspired doesn't quite sit right. Maybe Southwestern? We're still mulling it over. What do you think?