Urban Outfitters has their illegal panties in a knot. The American retailer is once again under fire, but this time it’s for selling a pair of printed underwear called “Navajo Hipster Panty.” What’s so wrong about a one little pair of underwear? Under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, it’s illegal in the United States to market a product by falsely suggesting it is a product of or produced by a particular tribe (in this case, the Navajo tribe).
During a shopping trip to Urban Outfitters, Native American Sasha Houston Brown saw the underwear, which she described as looking like “Ke$ha had violently exploded in the store leaving behind a cheap, vulgar and culturally offensive retail collection.” Offended, she wrote an open letter to Glen T. Senk, CEO of Urban Outfitters, outlining how the underwear is illegal and informing him (and the public) that the Navajo Nation Attorney General had sent a cease and desist. Senk has yet to officially respond to Brown’s letter and currently the underwear is still available for purchase on the site. In the meantime, maybe it’s time for the store to get a new gimmick.
Sasha Houston Brown: “I doubt that you consulted the Navajo Nation about using their tribal name on sophisticated items such as the ‘Navajo Hipster Panty’. In fact, I recently became aware that the Navajo Nation Attorney General sent your company a cease and desist letter regarding this very issue. I stand in solidarity with the Navajo Nation and ask that you not only cease and desist selling products falsely using the Navajo name, but that you also stop selling faux Indian apparel that objectifies all tribes.” [Racialicious]
Racked: “So yes, Urban Outfitters slaps “Navajo” on a ton of their products, but no one actually believes that these panties are made by Native American tribes, right? Apparently, these types of products were enough to warrant a cease and desist letter: According to Brown, Urban Outfitters has already received such a notice from the Navajo Nation Attorney General, who also doesn’t seem too keen on things like a Navajo-print flask.” [Racked]
Rani Sheen, features editor: “Whether this pair of undies is found to be illegal in the States or not, Navajo or ‘tribal’ icons used in fashion always walk a very fine line between homage and exploitation, ‘inspiration’ and plain poor taste. It’s up to everyone to be aware of the implications.”