New York Fashion Week Designer steals from Northern Cheyenne/Crow artist Bethany Yellowtail

In Uncategorized by Adrienne K.41 Comments

KTZ instagram

I write about cultural appropriation in fashion a lot. I’ve taken on big brands and small brands, arguing that our images and cultural property should be taken seriously. But today, things got personal. Brand KTZ’s Fall/Winter line at New York Fashion Week was “a tribute” to Indigenous peoples. There’s a lot to critique in the line (and I will), but nestled among the 45 looks was this dress:

vogue crow dress

Does it look familiar? It might, because it is a DIRECT rip-off of my friend Bethany Yellowtail’s design from her Crow Pop Collection:


If you need a side-by-side:

bethany KTZ

Notice the form of the dress is the same, with the collar, the length, the shape, and the designs are clearly “inspired” by Bethany’s. Here’s the thing. Bethany’s design is not just a collection of abstract shapes, she utilized Crow beadwork that had been in her family for generations for her design. The colors, the shapes, and the patterns have meaning, origins, and history. They belong to her family and tribe. They are cultural property, not designs that are free for the taking.

In this video clip from FNX, Bethany talks about the beadwork designs and what they symbolize, as well as her journey to incorporating these designs into her work:

When I listen to her words, I hear humility and care, and she demonstrates how much thought goes in to incorporating her culture into her designs. This is not a task she takes lightly, and she realizes that these designs are for her community as much, if not more so, as her career. Bethany understands that responsibility, and takes it on with pride. She is a wonderful example of why Native people need to be the ones designing from our cultures–this knowledge and understanding comes out of community ties and respect, and is hard, if not impossible, to achieve without that deep connection to culture.

(2/19 ETA) I’m realizing folks aren’t necessarily watching the video, so I’ll transcribe out what Bethany says about the designs, starting at 1:26: “I started with beadwork that has been in my family for generations. This was actually my great grandmother’s, Irene Yellowtail. This is from the early 1900’s. This design here is really traditional to the Crow people. I remember when I was younger, I was told that this balance shape, this meant our spirit world and our physical world, and this is where the Crow live. So I started reflecting on those things, and this beadwork is really dear to me, so I realized that was what was going to start guiding me. That balance. So that’s really prevalent in my designing–that shape. And it’s really common in Crow beadwork, and they still use it today in contemporary ways.” 

Here’s the beadwork next to her work:

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 10.00.42 AMScreen Shot 2015-02-19 at 10.05.40 AM

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 10.04.04 AM

As you can see from the KTZ design above, this balance shape that is so important to Bethany and the Crow people is exactly the one centered on the dress in question. It’s not “just” inverted triangles.

So back to Marjan Pejoski, the designer behind KTZ. He’s a Macedonian-born, Bali-living designer who is most well known for a rather infamous Swan dress. He’s not a household name, but is definitely highly influential and often named a designer “to watch”–whatever that means. According to Women’s Wear Daily, he said in an interview that this Fall/Winter 2015 line was “a tribute to the primal woman indigenous to this land, who evolves into a sexualized, empowered being“. So many things wrong with that statement. So otherizing and exoticizing. So stereotypical. Also, in no way is this a “tribute.” This is a mockery and a celebration of cultural theft.

Here are a few more images from his collection, the full runway can be seen here at Vogue.

vogue thunderbird

This is a direct lifting of Navajo Yei weaving designs:

vogue yei


Here’s a traditional rug for comparison:


There’s beadwork:

vogue beadwork

And of course feathers:

vogue feathers

So far, this has happened at nearly every fashion week in the five years that I’ve been writing Native Appropriations. There was Nicholas K’s “Apache Shamanistic Journey,” and Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel disaster that happened nearly a year ago to the day, as well as many, many others. When Jessica Metcalfe of Beyond Buckskin saw the Chanel photos last year, she said on Facebook, “In addition to this being the same ol same ol privileged white people playing Indian, Karl Lagerfeld hasn’t had a creative idea since the ’80s. Even with this show he’s just rehashing Ralph Lauren and Gaultier and playing the ‘trendy headdress’ card. So yes, I give him a huge double fail.”

That, to me is a huge part of this. There is absolutely no creativity here. If I can point to several other lines in the last year, and dozens more over the last decade, that have done the exact. same. thing., there’s nothing original or new about your designs–cultural appropriation notwithstanding. It was our people who did the heavy lifting creative work for you. We designed these images. We have the knowledge and understanding of what they mean and how they can be appropriately used. We evolved and developed and maintained our cultures for thousands of years. Our cultures are not in, what Jessica calls, “the free bin” for your taking.

So why is it that Indigenous intellectual property is not seen as “real” intellectual property? Yes, the boundaries are difficult to find and difficult to enforce–but if KTZ had directly ripped off images from, say Valentino, or Yves Saint Laurent, or, shoot, McDonalds or Apple or anyone else, there would be a major case to be made about violations of intellectual property rights, and people would scoff at his lack of creativity. But “primitive” or in his words, “primal” peoples are not ever given the same consideration. Our designs and cultural markers are used to “enhance” white culture, while white cultural artifacts are protected and policed.

The bottom line is this: There should be no representations of us, without us. You want to draw upon Indigenous cultures for your line? Involve Indigenous artists and designers. There is no alternative answer. You love Bethany’s Crow designs? Call Bethany. Collaborate with Bethany. Give her a chance to show at New York Fashion Week with you. The fashion world costs hella money to get a foot in the door, so if you as a designer truly want to offer a “tribute” to Native people? Bring a Native designer up with you.

But I have one last concern, and it’s been something working at me since the Ralph Lauren debacle a couple months back. These days, the outrage machine is quick and fierce when brands appropriate our cultures, and I love it. Immediately folks mobilize online to get the company to apologize and make changes, and we have the ability to take down multi-national companies in hours. It’s amazing. But there’s a dark side. Our dozens of columns and think-pieces, thousands of tweets and comments–they offer free publicity for the brand/designer/company. For a few days, their name is everywhere, their site stats shoot through the roof, and their pictures are on the front page of blogs and news outlets nationwide. The old adage “no such thing as bad publicity” may ring true in these cases, because there is truly little consequence for these brands. They release a half-hearted-non-apology, they take down an offending image, they shrug and move on. We, as a community, can boycott these brands, but Native peoples and our allies are such a small percentage of the population, and let’s be real–how many of us are buying high-end luxury fashion? So for the week or so that these instances take center stage, everyone knows Marjan Pejoksi (had you heard of him before? Probs not.), and in a few months, the outrage will die down, and we’ll forget why we know his name–we’ll just know it.

It frustrates me, and I don’t know what to do to change it. Right now, this is the only recourse we have, and it works–to a certain extent. We as Native peoples deserve respect, and we have to demand it through the channels we have available to us. Awareness is huge, and has done so much for preventing these instances from happening more. But there needs to be another step, and we do need to acknowledge that our well-functioning (since we never get a break!) outrage machine may be giving some of these folks exactly what they want.

I spoke to Beth this afternoon, and she has been thinking through what the best outcomes would be for this situation. The dress in question isn’t in stores yet, and she is adamant that it not ever end up on the racks, and I agree. She also would like a conversation with the designer, either on camera or in person, to discuss what happened. Beth wants him to see her. As a Native person, as a designer, as a contemporary in the fashion world, not as an ancient artifact.

The other piece she pointed out that resonated deeply with me are the layers of erasure, violation, and power that went into this situation. KTZ wanted honor Indigenous women, but instead they erased us. We talk so much about missing and murdered indigenous women, and this is yet another example of how we are systematically erased. And for Beth, as a Crow woman, putting these designs out to the world is a deeply personal process–and that connection, that spirituality, was violated by Pejoski. It’s not just a design, it is her entire being as a Native woman represented in that dress. Not to mention the power imbalance here. In the words of Matika Wilbur (we had a fancy Indian conference call), “this is modern day colonialism at work.” So painfully true.

But right now, how do you, as an individual, contribute to positive change in this area? Support Native designers. Buy Bethany’s amazing line. Visit the Beyond Buckskin Boutique. Contribute to real Native fashion.

Tweet out your support for Bethany (@byellowtail), contact KTZ through their twitter (@KTZofficial), their Facebook page, instagram, or website. Let folks know that we mean business, and that our cultures aren’t free for the taking.



  • O.F.

    Thanks, Adrienne, for this thoughtful post and for taking up this issue, (unfortunately) once again.

    I feel the same frustration on what impact can be made beyond online activism. It is a useful tool, for sure, but has not yet seemed to dissuade designers from appropriating designs over and over.

    I am not sure how to encourage this, but perhaps it will take pressure from inside the fashion industry for real consequences to occur. I think the online support for holding designers accountable for appropriation, and in this case, theft, can amplify this issue to fashion insiders, but it will require action on the part of insiders for designers to truly feel the impact.

    For example, it is disappointing, but not surprising, that Vogue and other fashion outlets would present this collection without comment on the blatant appropriation. If these same fashion outlets would choose not to run the collections in their magazines or blogs, or would feature the collection with commentary from Native designers, it could possibly generate the kind of bad press or no press that could impact sales.

    So, just an idea, as I agree, that a boycott is not feasible, because most fashion presented at NYFW is not affordable for the general public. It is a big (necessary) ask of the fashion media, especially when so much education is needed for this media, such as Vogue, etc., but if online campaigns put both pressure on designers, as well as fashion media, hopefully it would at least result in acknowledgment of such appropriation occurring.

    Keep on!

    • Adrienne_K

      I actually really like that idea–it feels feasible, rather than me just feeling paralyzed and not knowing how best to approach this. Elle Canada printed a piece about cultural appropriation and the misuse of headdresses last year, so there is probably a slow, but welcome, movement toward understanding. Thanks for your thoughts!

  • Joanne Yankovich

    Can white women buy Native designed fashion?

    • I think the video answers that question… and if you know what you’re doing, that’s precisely the point, right?
      A white woman here who can’t buy any fashion, pretty much, and makes her own, so maybe I’m not one to talk…

    • John

      Of course! It’s just important to support Indigenous designers, instead of those that are profiting off cultures that are not their own.

    • disposableidentity

      I have a hard time understanding how wearing another culture’s motif to express one’s self is okay, but sewing another culture’s motif to express one’s self is not okay.

      • Whirlwitch

        Can you really not understand? Do you understand any of these examples?

        – The difference between buying a painting and displaying it on your wall; and making a forgery and selling it as your own.

        – The difference between buying an album, listening to it, even singing along with it; and performing those songs for profit without permission from the actual creators.

        – The difference between reading a book of poems someone wrote; and performing one at an open mic without crediting and asking permission from the poet.

        Do you get why knock-offs of products by Chanel, Coach and others are copyright infringements? Do you understand why Disney owns the rights to their characters? Did you know that you can’t write a book and use somebody else’s artwork as illustrations without their express permission? The issue is very much the same.

        • disposableidentity

          The examples you just gave are all issues of infringement of intellectual property. That applies to all artists and business people equally, regardless of race or culture. In this case there was no legal infringement. This is a case of inspiration or creative borrowing. If it was a case of infringement she could get an injunction and damages in court.

          But this article wasn’t about violating copyright or trade-dress in the fashion business. It was about cultural appropriation.

          If we’re talking about cultural appropriation, then the violation would be caused not just by the COPYING, but by the USE of culturally significant images or motifs for expression. An outsider of that particular culture who uses those images to express themselves (wearing fashion is about personal expression), has appropriated that image.

          You can’t have it both ways. Both the copier and the wearer are appropriating these powerful cultural images.

      • DarthDisney

        Because both are ok, thats why you are having a hard time with it.

  • I Want Cheese

    This is probably a symptom of my ignorance, but without it being pointed out and lots and lots of squinting at the pictures, I wasn’t able to tell that the one dress was a rip-off of the other. The colors fooled me at first, being the most obvious difference, and even though you said the neck was stolen it looks completely different to me. (Higher, with a sort of front cape-let. (word?)) The only similarity I saw at first is that they’re both sheath dresses, not a convincing fact on its own as sheath is a rather common style of dress.

    It was the designs I finally saw after all that squinting. The smushed together triangles, the rectangles with squares inside, and the striped bars. As I’m sure is obvious, I’m not Native. Perhaps the knowledge of what those geometric shapes mean and are called and how they’re supposed to be used (three things I will be looking up when I’m done writing this comment) is necessary for the immediate recognition of their misuse. (I’m kind of doing the same thing with the Navajo rug and its ripoff dress. How are they alike? They’re both long and tall?)

    I would like to be clear that this comment is meant to reflect negatively only on myself and not on the Native artists for creating works I don’t have the cultural knowledge to recognize let alone understand. I’m sure this cultural ignorance plays heavily into the mainstream allowing these kind of shenanigans to go on. I’m reminded of being in Japan and seeing fashion in English designed by people who couldn’t speak English–most of it was jibberish, some amusingly so, but most just didn’t make any sense at all. We mocked the ones we could, such as “I ♥ V D” and “pork eaters in Japan.” (The former was by the brand Von Dutch.)

    So a question, now that I’ve been rambling a little bit at myself in these comments for a bit… I don’t want to draw a direct line between “Engrish” shirts and stolen Native art, but I’m also curious. The art has meaning so, when it’s appropriated by the ignorant, do they turn out jibberish as well? Or does that question betray the depth of my ignorance in ways I don’t even yet know?

    • Excellent question I really would like to see answered, if possible. A) I’m European and also lack the ability to see, B) I bet there’s a lot of people without that ability, and you ask exactly the sort of question that could be turned into a counterargument by those less conscientious. There is, obviously, a double standard going on, that of the fashion world and that of tradition. How do those two combine in a way anyone can understand? (Maybe they can’t. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe white/mainstream designers simply can’t care, because they’re not cut that way. But that doesn’t change the fact of the reaction… just like I roll my eyes at some appropriations and misunderstandings of *my* culture, and that’s got way less of the implications.)

  • Justine

    Thank you so much for writing this article. The Keya Foundation I work with works directly with Native American Artists on the Cheyenne River (Lakota) and we worry constantly about these things. I actually live on the Crow and new the Northern Cheyenne and am so sorry about this situation. Thank you for bringing light to it. Please feel free to check out what we have going on in our Non-Profit with Native Art. or at FB at The Keya Foundation.

    • S Davidson

      You worry too much.

      • Justine

        I am not here to argue a point, but obviously it is a concern when it is happening.

  • Andre Leonard

    They have been ‘stealing’ for so long, it’s now usual and customary.

  • Indigenous1

    I would, for starters, just love to NOT see the word “primal” mentioned in regards to Indigenous inspired anything. Best I recall, I used a spoon to eat my Lucky Charms this morning, and drove a car into the corporate legal role I am employed in…Primal is what designers wish for us to be, when in fact THEY are the ones who act primitive.

  • casualty

    You want to know how to “stop” the appropriation, stop writing articles about the person who was “inspired” and reacting with outrage, and start promoting and focusing on the native artist. Feature Bethany.. honestly, from your article, I know more about KTZ than I do about Bethany, except you portray our native woman as a victim. Commend her as the true inspiration for this piece, promote her..add that she’s heavily inspired this dress of the ny fashion world, encourage people to want to know about her, not become an activist and discourage the fashion world from looking at her work and how it can be fashion forward always, not just a trend. Help people want more of her work. People borrow, steal and imitate in fashion all the time, so stop with the activism, and start the promotion and real education.

    • disposableidentity

      I think KTZ / Marjan Pejoski’s work in this case is stronger than Bethany’s, perhaps because he didn’t feel bound to the cultral tradition from which he borrowed.

      Look at the color — more striking — yet fresh with the white release and organic textural edges. Look at how the motif has been broken to allow variation that aligns with the female wearer’s form.

      His is simply better fashion.

      • casualty

        I think KTZ has more experience with putting a fashion show together a piece to accent those attributes, but I have every confidence Bethany will get there too. I get your point on the white/bold color contrast, but I still wouldn’t wear it. personal taste, I wouldn’t go that bold coloring with those designs.. fashion runway doesn’t translate to street wear all the time. however, if they wanted to mass produce a piece for wear, it’s Bethany’s design that has lasting power.

        • TRbballmom

          Casualty, I have been reading your comments and I see you really are trying to help Bethany. I do agree that the focus needs to be on the positive and not the accusatory part. This is a woman who is as kind,loving, generous as one will ever meet and I can only hope that people will get to know this beautiful lady. Her vision is to bring Native design to the forefront, after all, we are the original fashion designers of the North American continent. You are correct that KTZ fits a specific market and not necessarily what Beth is designing for. Nonetheless, her vision is to bring Native design to the forefront for all to wear. I hope everyone reading is will get to know her and her fashions! She is beautiful inside and out !

      • J. Lake

        Pejoski’s was sloppy and ill-fitting. Bethany’s geometry was elegant and complemented the whole body. A full, harmonious and artistic design. Pejoski was iron-on scraps that were slapped on a dress.

    • Adrienne_K

      Sorry, did you read the same article I wrote? Over half the article is talking about Beth and her work, and it ends with a call to Buy Native and buy her line. I also promote Native designers and artists all the time on the blog/twitter/FB…but there is also importance in this sort of “activism,” because activism makes change. Folks need to understand why these instances are harmful–without education/awareness and cultural critique we can’t move forward. We need both. It can’t be one or the other. This is also what I *do* here…I write a blog examining representations of Native peoples in the media/pop culture. So that’s what I did.

      Also, Beth has sold out her line thanks to this “activism.”

      • casualty

        Wow, that wasn’t defensive at all – you opened the door to solution in the article that I apparently didn’t read – you said you’re at a loss of what to do. I gave you an opinion of being active, but through a different angle. Instead of spending time with negative accusations against KTZ, your focus shouldn’t be 50% Bethany, it should be 90% Bethany. you spent a lot of time and space printing KTZ, all the links to their whole line.. yet you did less on Bethany’s line and you focused on her culture. From your article, I don’t know about all of Bethany’s current work, but I know what KTZ did. Your so-called “buy native” efforts were a rallying cry in response to victimization, not because it’s a damn good product that is fashionably relevant and a leader in the industry. Do you see the distinction? I guess in your mind, your “activism” and accusation had a temporary and direct benefit to Bethany (which that’s arrogant isn’t it, claiming your article helped her sell out her line), but you failed to see the overall picture. In the long run, fashion will say the native influence is too political and therefore not worth it, and it will continue to be marginalized. Yes, your blog is accusatory and reactionarily-focused, but if you’re talking about achieving overall success in the ‘world’ by pounding your chest, pointing fingers and accusing people when they look at you and are influenced by you, you’re alienating yourself. I said turn it around – be a positive activist who identifies work influenced, and then it should focus on the the real artist. You also sent a message to every non-native person that says “look at us but only we can tell this story and make interpretations.” The biggest problem with that argument is it starts to draw lines on who is native and who isn’t when it comes to art.. as determined by who? That’s colonistic. You can certainly point out the artist’s history, maybe it derives from a closer native tie and history, but to exclude people from the genre and draw lines, it’s a slippery slope argument. The “change” you’re taking about isn’t change, it’s the same message – “don’t try to get into native art because only we natives can decide what it is… but please buy it.” Like I said, native artists put their stuff out there, sharing with the world.. and once they do, they’re influencing others. It means being strategic in protecting their product, while at the same time, be prepared to see other people, even other natives, take their ideas and change them and sell them. Bethany wants to be relevant to a fashion industry, but her target market isn’t only native patrons. Your article talks about Bethany, but as a victim, whose heritage was stolen. You paint her in a light that only she can produce these designs. It would be one thing if KTZ put out a dress literally identical and passed out of as their own. I think they should identify their influences, but she could be capitalizing of their work by owning KTZ’s effort.. own the influence. she should be pounding her chest with pride, saying “look at my work and my influence”. That’s empowering. That’s real activism in terms of educating and promoting at the same time, but not through an accusatory message. This is the true question.. natives want their work to be influential, and when it is, if we don’t like it, then it’s ‘appropriation’? It’s what is called the “chilling effect”. Cooling the fashion interest in native design by criticizing the industry, and that’s a perfect means for the industry to move on. That’s not helpful in the long run if your message is longevity and relevance of native works. This is a relatively new media, designer clothing for everyone on a different level. Native influence needs to move beyond western wear and fringe jackets/boots. Chastising those who are ‘misinterpreting’ a design versus educating everyone else about real native work, and I mean focused articles identifying influence instead of victimization, is the difference between what you did and what I’m suggesting.

      • pinkyblues

        I can’t believe you would have the gall to attribute your article alone to the success of Beth’s work…

  • Polarisvt

    First visit, sent over by Melissa @ Shakesville. Just want to see if others are seeing another weirdness/potential outrage: to my eye it looks like many of those models wearing appropriated dress designs are also wearing hats shaped like kepis, the iconic hat of the 19th century U.S. (and C.S.A.) military forces. Another symbol of theft and appropriation, galling when paired with stolen native symbols and designs.

    • katansi

      Noticed that immediately.

  • There are some interesting points made here, and in general about “cultural appropriation”.

    But here is a question: Is a Native musician who plays the blues or makes hip hop also guilty of cultural appropriation?

    • disposableidentity

      I think this blog makes it quite clear that the range of one’s personal expression is delineated by their own personal biology. The genes in their cells determine how a person should express themselves to the world.

      So that would be a “no”.

      Keep the peas and the carrots of expression safely from touching one another on the plate of life.

  • girl

    I’m a print designer and sorry, these are not the same designs and have not been plagiarized. Ethnic/ aztec designs use the same motifs but saying this is a rip off is a huge stretch

    • katansi

      “Ethnic” is my favorite word. I forget that as a white person I have no ethnicity. Just none. Ever. Because clearly only non-white people can be “ethnic.”

    • S Davidson

      Absolutely correct. Inspiration becomes the source of ideas, and when filtered through individual ideation, it becomes your own. Those dresses are not the same…not by any stretch of the imagination.

  • Scott B

    As a threshold matter, there seems to be an unstated assumption that were the ‘original’ designed by, say, Yves Saint Laurent, then Yves Saint Laurent could prevail against a hypothetical ‘style pirate’ in an intellectual property suit. There is no argument to support the contention that any intellectual property statute or case law could successfully shield a plaintiff from this type of copying.

    Here, the likelihood that a plaintiff would prevail seems near zero. The following note appears to give a decent overview of the potentially applicable law in the US:

    Whether intellectual property protection should extend to designs such as these is a separate issue, as is the morality of such copying.

  • Fred Rickson

    Is this a joke…Pythagoras beat everybody to the triangle. Nobody owns the shape.

  • DarthDisney

    Oh god, cultural appropriation is such a bullshit term. It has been part of the experience of being human for our entire history. I know you won’t agree with me, people who are so far up in their argument rarely change their minds, but take a minute and try to think when this didn’t happen in history? This is just a way for people to look down on other people, which really isn’t something we need these days.

    As for copying? No, come on. This is like yelling at someone for using lines.

    • S Davidson

      Absolutely correct. Since the dawn of history and since cultures have been trading with each other sharing of ideas of decoration, textile development and technology has been commonplace and valued. This of course, is no longer the case with the 21st century notion of victimhood. Sorry…any time a designer has an experience with other cultures through travel, research, etc…that culture becomes a valid source of inspiration and through personal ideation the designer creates a unique and personal point of view.

  • katansi

    Did anyone else think that the hats the runway models are wearing also look like Civil War soldier hats? So yeah…

  • artguerrilla

    1. in another article, i read how ms. yellowtail correctly and obviously realized how *OF COURSE* there is no such thing as copyright in the fashion industry (excepting certain individual designs of decoration) because of the useful nature of clothing, BUT THEN proceeded to ignore that and claim such designs as ‘her own’…
    no, they are not ‘yours’, or ‘your peoples’, no matter how offended you might be…
    (what? NOBODY can use triangles because your mother made a beaded purse that showed two triangles tip-to-tip ? ? ? *sheeesh*)
    2. this most ESPECIALLY includes the COMMON dress elements of neckline, etc… the author who goes on about this is certainly ignorant of this situation when she tries to claim ownership of such things on behalf of ms yellowtail… OTHERWISE, ms yellowtail would be ‘violating’ -i don’t know- WHOEVER first wrapped a piece of cloth around themselves *just so*, and called it a dress… wise up, author, you look ignorant…
    3. THAT is the essential nature of ALL art, ALL of human existence: you make something, i like it and make something which is a variation on it, better, different, whatever… you don’t have an exclusive right to it, grow up…
    4. as other posters mentioned, uh, sure, it has some similarities, i would certainly have no issue with saying the other designer was inspired by it… i could EQUALLY certainly see that they may have flipped through a book on native american art and gotten inspiration from that… so what ? ? ? does ms yellowtail NOT use buttons, zippers, velcro, thread, cloth, fire, air, or water because SHE didn’t invent them ? is SHE ripping off others ? (no, of course not, don’t be silly…)
    5. my mother and aunt made a quilt for me that has a compass rose on it; do i get to demand that EVERYONE else NOT make anything that looks vaguely like a compass rose ? ? ? don’t be daft, i don’t even have the right to be offended by its ‘appropriation’, much less demand it as ‘mine’…
    6. the logical conclusion of her claim of ownership is insane: there would be virtually NOTHING that any contemporary person could use or modify EVEN TO THE EXTENT THIS WAS, because EVERYTHING would be locked up by the ‘original’ maker (WHOEVER that is, good luck finding that out…)
    7. i would be willing to bet dollars to donut holes that for EVERY SINGLE design element she is claiming as ‘hers’ or her ancestors (again, a meaningless exercise), there are dozens if not hundreds of historical examples that pre-date her ancestors’ usage…
    8. lastly, have native americans been screwed over for hundreds of years and continuing to this day ? ? ? ABSOLUTELY. HOWEVER, THIS is not an example of that, THIS is an example of a whiny, irrational rant of ‘ownership’ of common design elements by a weird, entitled person, i don’t care WHAT her ethnicity is…

    • casualty

      whoa whoa whoa – cultural appropriation is a real thing, and it has nothing to do with who used the first zipper. Cultural appropriation is taking the sacred, an element of a specific culture and capitalizing on it. In Bethany’s case, and the case of many native artists, they incorporate culture and should know what elements can be produced for non-cultural purposes, and which can’t. It’s one thing for non-natives to be a part of something they don’t see every day (not in common use) and interpret it and sell it. That’s a real thing and what I would consider as appropriation. Then, you have native artists who appropriate their own culture, many times in a new way and in a good way, and they put that on display for a non-cultural use. That’s the general basis of native art. But the onus is on the native artist to be responsible with what symbols and what things they portray because once they put it out there, anyone and everyone will see it, and you can’t control how they’re going to use it. So in this case, those family designs and colors, they originate from Bethany and her family, but she put it out there and others will be influenced – as they clearly were here. You have to understand native culture to know what that means, or its significance. She’s not saying she invented the triangle, but she’s saying that pattern represents her family. It’s like intellectual property, that specific pattern and those specific colors use in that specific way. Yet, and here’s the crux, Bethany put it out there commercially, and while it’s not exactly Bethany’s design, now an ny fashion week collection has a piece that’s heavily influenced from it. Is it appropriation or design influence? In this case, I think it’s the latter.

  • S Davidson

    Baloney. How is a designer NOT allowed to be inspired by resources outside of his/her own personal nationality or race. Anytime a designer travels, experiences an art show, reads a book they are gathering resources that become part of their bed of inspiration. I don’t need to be from Turkey or Italy to have been inspired by art and history of those nations any more than I have to be Native American to have been inspired by the art and culture of Native American tribes. BTW…I do believe Bethany is using fabrics and manufacturing techniques she appropriated from whites of European descent.

  • lin

    I find discussions about cultural appropriation very important worldwide, so despite the fact that I’m not american, I have been reading your blog and benefiting from the intelligent discourse here for a very long time. So in advance, my apologies for the fact that I am going to divert this very important discussion from its focal point for a second.

    In case you (or your readers) weren’t clearly aware of this, using the term “Macedonian” to refer to a person from FYROM means taking a side in an ongoing political dispute that, funny as it may be, actually touches upon subjects of cultural appropriation. Most people of course use the word without thinking twice because, at least in the US, it is the common terminology (unsurprisingly partly because of political reasons). Also it’s “easy” and going the roundabout way of describing a person as being from FYROM is commonly described as “overreacting” and being “overly politically correct”. Explanations you may have heard of before and ones that may potentially hint at the fact that, well, it’s not that simple. There is in fact a good argument to be made that the term is now widespread because of concerted attempts to usurp, for political reasons, not a (fair-to-use) geographical term but a historical and cultural identity, using partly deliberate misinformation, and partly oversimplification and simple ignorance. Anyone interested in the subject will be able to find more than enough information online, hopefully from both sides of the argument (though some digging may be required).

    Anyway, clearly this isn’t your fight, and you are already fighting the good fight for your people. I just thought you’d be interested to know that this is another one of the “not just a word” words. I forced myself not to comment when I first read it a few days ago (because “stop overreacting!”), but I just couldn’t focus on the rest of the article. So I came back to at least spread a bit of awareness. Not of which side is right and which wrong, just of the fact that this really isn’t “just a word” right at this moment in history.

    Thanks for reading, and again, I’m sorry for side-tracking the topic. And thank you for your work, I deeply appreciate it, even as an outsider.

  • J. Lake

    Bethany’s work is way better