A Texan's Defense of Chanel's 'Cowboys and Indians' Pre-Fall Collection

If Chanel hadn’t incorporated any Native American designs into the show I would have been offended.
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If Chanel hadn’t incorporated any Native American designs into the show I would have been offended.
Chanel's Metiers d'Art fashion show in Dallas, Texas. Cooper Neill/Getty.

Chanel's Metiers d'Art fashion show in Dallas, Texas. Cooper Neill/Getty.

Chanel paid homage to Texas in its Métiers d’Art show, and as a Texan, I loved it. People may have raised an eyebrow to the headdresses that appeared, but if Chanel hadn’t incorporated any Native American designs into the show, I would have been offended. First of all, as clichéd as it sounds, the state’s story is full of real tales of the Wild West and clashes between settlers and tribes. There’s a reason people in Texas have such pride in our state -- people (Native Americans and settlers) fought hard for it. (It was its own country for ten whole years.) But to whittle the collection down to just two headdresses shows that that’s what people equate Native Americans to. There was so much more in this collection that was inspired by them. Look at the beautiful beadwork, the fringe, the gorgeous blankets turned into coats and skirts; the turquoise jewelry cascading down tops, and so much leather. If you think that Native Americans have only contributed headdresses then you need to head to the Southwest pronto and visit some museums and galleries.

Cooper Neill/Getty.

Cooper Neill/Getty.

Also, an aside: Not every Native item is Navajo. There were at least 26 different tribes in Texas alone -- none of them Navajo. Can we please at least try to learn a little in our outrage? The argument I’ve heard from many people, once they realize the collection is full of Native American-inspired designs and embellishments, is that it's fine, but could have done without the headdresses. Fair enough -- but they were a counterpart to the cowboy hats that walked for most of the show. So in that instance, it seems fair to display them. And, let’s be honest, it’s a runway show. More importantly, it’s a Chanel runway show. You need a little over the top glitz and glam in there. And the headdresses fit the bill. I don’t think that this is anything similar to instances of actresses wearing feathers at Coachella because the show was evoking a time in a place’s history and paying homage. And as someone who grew up in El Paso, it made me sentimental for all the things we learned and all the things we did as kids, including all the turquoise we’d wear, the blankets all over the house and how the schools were amazing at teaching us about the local Native American tribes. We were never allowed to celebrate Columbus Day because that is offensive. I think context is everything here and I would be the first to say no, that’s bad. But in this instance, I think Chanel did a great job.