Uh-oh, I just shopped at Urban Outfitters

In pendleton, urban outfitters by Adrienne K.17 Comments

I’m really hating Urban Outfitters right now. Their endorsement of the “tribal” trend is seriously out of control, and seems to only be getting worse. So today I stopped in to the store near my office to check out for myself what all of my friends had been emailing me about. And it was bad. Bad enough that I will most definitely be doing a long post about them very soon.

But then, I went down to the bargain basement, and I saw the BEAUTIFUL Pendleton blanket above. Gorgeous, right? and guess what?

…it was only $40. Amazing!

So I happily marched up to the checkout counter and bought it. Then I started to feel guilty that maybe I was buying into the horrible Urban Outfitters empire and am now part of the problem. But it’s a real Pendleton Blanket!

I’m conflicted. What do you think? Clearly I have mixed feelings about the Pendleton trends, but I also love the blankets and think Pendleton has a good relationship with Indian Country.

EDIT: I should have added a little more context. I just threw this up here quickly because I wanted to show that I’m not infallible when it comes to these issues, and I get confused and conflicted all the time too. I don’t make it a habit to shop at UO, definitely don’t support their politics, and find them pretty vile overall. I saw the blanket, got super excited by the price, and bought it. Had I stood there and thought about it more, maybe I wouldn’t have. But I posted it to just make a quick point about how even for me, who blogs about this stuff day after day, I don’t have a perfect set of rules to follow.

As a couple of commenters pointed out (quite humorously–thanks Scott), I guess in a backwards way I did “save” the blanket from someone who wouldn’t appreciate it for the right reasons. Maybe? (or just let me think that so I feel better?)

It made me think about how when I was in undergrad, the assistant director of the Native program at Stanford used to keep a box of random memorabilia sporting the Stanford “Indian” mascot from pre-1971. They were things she had found at thrift shops, garage sales, etc., and her whole philosophy was that she would buy it so somebody else wouldn’t. I contributed a shirt to the box that I found at at thrift store in San Diego–even paying $14.99 for it, way overpriced for an old tshirt–because I couldn’t bear the thought of somebody buying it and wearing it because it was “cool” and “vintage.” Is that the same thing as this blanket? No, but thought it might have some relevance here. ha.

Thanks for bearing with me as we figure this out together. :)

Let’s Talk About Pendleton
It starts with a trip to Urban Outfitters (my very first post ever!)

  • I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this…How is it not incredibly hypocritical?

  • W

    I used to work @ UO, and unfortunately they are a totally evil empire. The owners support some really vile anti-gay and anti-woman politicians (the lovely Rick Santorum, for example). Not to mention their shady business practices, especially when dealing with indie crafters and artisans.

    In other mall-fashion news, ch-ch-check out Claire’s latest collection, “Hipster Hippie”!

  • HOKA!!!

    You were very brave walking into the enemy’s camp and finding our honored one being held in captivity!!! You are truly a strong Native warrior and the Creator is shining upon you!

    You freed our honored one from its captivity and if the enemy is too ignorant to know its true worth then their fate is sealed.

    You have done a great service to the People and our honored one and you shall reap many blessings. You released the honored one from its captivity and have taken it into your home and adopted it as a treasured member of your family. You have also, most likely, saved it from the far worse fate of being traded to a dirty hipster stinking of patchouli who would have treated the honored one in an ill way and discarded it to the trash heap after it was no longer hip.

    All the People send you blessings for your deed!!!

    A-ho, Wado and WEE-CHA!!!!!!!!

  • Well, I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to say it was “incredibly hypocritical”. We’ve all made some less than responsible purchases, and you clearly are not shopping there all the the time looking for great deals. And I am with SoonerScotty, you are so brave going in there, I can barely walk by without retching! A Pendleton blanket is a Pendleton blanket, wherever you buy it, and while it is a bit unfortunate UO got your money for it, I again agree with the above comment that you rescued it from some idiot like the girl who rang out my groceries the other night and complimented a pair of my beaded earrings saying. “I am so into anything Indian right now!” Um….yeah. Me too.

  • Being Native myself, who used to live on the Umatilla Indian Reservation right outside of Pendleton, OR, where the Pendleton brand is from, I think you shouldn’t feel conflicted. Like you said, Pendleton has a very good relationship with Native peoples and they have been making blankets with Indian designs for over a hundred years. I am proud to sport anything Pendleton, from purses to Vans/Pendelton shoes. And I don’t think it’s wrong for other non-Indians to do the same. The fact that UO was selling the blanket is questionable…but it is a real Pendleton so IDK, I think you let the part about the blanket go. Lots of different stores sell Pendleton Blankets. Be happy that you got such a good deal on it. I would have bought it too. I don’t know how I feel about your conflict over the “tribal” trend. I personally like the designs like those on Pendleton blanket and usually by anything similar, be it from UO or Claires. I think it goes to far when places are selling the pouches that are made to look like medicine bags and other things of that sort.

  • I agree with GeeLove that Pendleton is a great company. I lived in Oregon and I remember they were having the Cherokee blanket made at the time. It was beautiful. I am a fashion accessory designer and bag maker, and If I want to make a Native Collection I have no problem of offering them to my customers, what they do with it it is their business. I am Cherokee and don’t mind selling my artwork to non Natives. I am not going to babysit them after the purchase. I do not like the hipsters wearing headdresses, but when it comes to Native style -made clothing and it is presented well, and comes from a real Native craftsman then I am all for it. This is how WE make our living… Let them buy real Native work. But I do see how these big companies like to snatch sales from real Native artists and copy or make their own Native artwork does tick me off.

  • I like the Pendleton blankets. I find it ironic and great at the same time that Indians have embraced the blanket as their “own”. You are blessed to receive a blanket like that in a give away or just as a gift. I would have bought it up as well. You know what it is like this: our attitudes can change but our values stay. You value your heritage, but your attitude towards a company may have shifted. No problem. Think of it like this, one day you are a supervisor worker and you fight hard for the fairness of your co-workers against management because you care. The next day you are promoted to management. You still work hard for the company in a different capacity but you still fight for fairness. Your attitude has shifted but you still have the same value.

  • WHAT THE HECK! You got a pendleton blanket for 40 bucks. You’re stoked! I support pendleton, even if they may support UO in some weird way. I bought the messenger bag from them and it was the best purchase I ever made. I do hate UO, but they were the only retail store carrying it.

  • I love Pendleton- my mom used to run the store on Boylston Street years ago and I own two blankets that I absolutely love. I think the blanket was for you…hence the price.

  • It has been verified the blanket is tagged as an actual Pendleton? http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2011/05/urban_outfitter_2.php

    Rallying people to boycott companies that you accuse of “appropriation” yet admitting few qualms supporting a company that donates your money to anti-gay and anti-feminist legislature seems hypocritical to me. “Screw the gays and women, their rights don’t matter – as long as everyone respects the Natives!”

  • Joe

    It seems like you know you bought the blanket because you like Pendleton blankets and it was a bargain. It also seems like you’re trying to create a high and mighty reason to rationalize your purchase. If this is the case, I don’t think you need to do this.

    I have thoughts on Pendleton, but I’ll post them later.

  • It was on sale – that’s $80 they DIDN’T make off of you. I found myself in a similar position once, so I understand the guilt. But, even as an activist, you’re only human and should not be expected to be perfect.

  • Hmmm… in some way that–or the assistant director’s notion–of gritting your teeth and acquiring certain items or what-not to keep it outta the hands of asshats seems like an interesting idea.

    Now that I think about it, I remember my mother and one of my sister having done such things. Though the objects weren’t racist, they were items created by Native(pawnshop) or Black(garage sales) hands that they believe would’ve been mis-used or misappropriated if they feel into white hands, especially since they were on display before a majority white clientle.

  • Urban Outfitters “inspiration board” for the “Call of the Wild” line particularly disgusting: http://www.freepeople.com/resources/freepeople/downloads/FreePeople-June2011.pdf

  • There is some really smart writing about cultural appropriation in the world of fashion over at ThreadBared you might be interested in, if you haven’t seen it already: http://iheartthreadbared.wordpress.com/tag/native-appropriations/

  • Urban Indian Outfitters.


  • Seems like you’re done commenting on these or perhaps never started, but I’ll throw my $0.02 in the ring.

    Has Pendleton historically had ties with the Native community? Yes.

    Have Pendleton blankets traditionally been used as gifts of significance in the Native community? Yes.

    Is Pendleton free to pursue other business ventures that might save their very niche product? Yes.

    In all honesty, who could blame Pendleton for partnering with other businesses? Historically, they’ve served a very small slice of the whole consumer pie. By partnering with UO and Levis, they’ve dramatically increased their scope and presence (and profits I’m sure).

    The only tragedy here is that the Indian people have placed their faith in for-profit businesses to keep their keepsake gifts “sacred”. It’s completely insane to think that the blankets that were used as gifts of significance from the 1800s were going to kept primarily as a small-time operation within the Indian community.

    If this is such an egregious error, how about boycotting Pendleton and a few Native blanket-makers step up and fill the void? Let’s take the faith out of for-profit companies and place dollars into companies/individuals committed to keeping these gifts sacred.