Photo: Urban Outfitters
Urban Outfitters is experiencing a bit of consumer backlash that could spill over into the legal realm, Jezebel reports. One Native American consumer recently posted an open letter to Urban Outfitters, saying that its “Navajo”-themed items are not only racist, but violate federal law.
Under the Federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 and the Federal Trade Commission Act, falsely claiming — or even implying — that products are Native American-made is prohibited.
Navajo Nation’s attorney general even sent a letter to Urban Outfitters, calling on the company to rethink its branding and stop selling phony “Navajo” goods. In it, he said the store “undermines the character and uniqueness of the Nation’s long-standing distinctive Navajo name and trademarks, which — because of its false connection with the Nation — dilutes and tarnishes the name and trademarks.“
Though federal agencies have promised to crack down on Native American knockoffs, so far, the government hasn’t taken any action again Urban Outfitters.
It’s the not the first time Urban has been asked to pull products. Earlier this year a Chicago designer said the company created a near-replica of one of her necklaces without her permission; and last year, two Brooklyn Flea vendors were surprised to see products suspiciously similar to their original designs stocked in the store. The Village Voice went on to find apparent knockoffs at Urban Outfitters dating back to 2006.
In a blog post responding to the Chicago designer’s allegations, Urban Outfitters said its policy is generally not to respond. It made an exception, though, because of media attention surrounding the purported plagiarism and clarified that the store buys products wholesale from several independent designers.
“For many of them, having their work sold at Urban Outfitters is a very positive turning point in their careers, and we will not allow their hard work and commitment, or ours, to be undermined by these false allegations,” the post reads.
No word yet on the company blog or elsewhere about the Navajo community’s concerns, but under these circumstances, the best move may be to pull (or at least rename) the products in question. And for a company that encourages merchants to visit exotic locales for concept ideas, there’s a lesson on cultural sensitivity somewhere in here, too.
Urban Outfitters has decided to lift the “Navajo” name from its online inventory after backlash from the Navajo Nation and consumers, which intensified during the past week, reports the AP.
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