Navajo Nation Sues Urban Outfitters for Trademark Violation | Awakened Aesthetic

It’s no secret: We really don’t like Urban Outfitters.  In fact, neither of us have even walked into an Urban Outfitters or Anthropologie, or bought anything made by Free People, in three years.

Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Free People are all owned by URBN, which is in turn owned by a staunch far-right conservative.  While we don’t have a problem with people believing what they want and donating to who they want, we do have a problem with those same people targeting one demographic (pro-gay, pro-choice liberals) and using funds from their company to donate to political campaigns for the opposite demographic (anti-gay, anti-choice conservatives).  In other words, we don’t like it when a company gives the impression it supports something – especially something as important as minority rights – when it is really out to tear that minority down.

It turns out that the Navajo Nation feels the same way: they’re suing Urban Outfitters for selling items that are not Native in origin, and calling them “Navajo” in the description.

Last October the Navajo Nation sent a cease and desist letter to Urban Outfitters regarding an entire line of clothing and accessories that used the word “Navajo” in their titles.  Urban Outfitters removed the Navajo name from those items, which included the “Navajo Flask” and the “Navajo Hipster Panty.”  (Yes, really.)  The company did continue to sell the products under a different name, but for purposes of the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act, it was a win.

…until the Navajo Nation found out that Urban Outfitters was still selling products using the Navajo name via Free People.  From the Associated Press:

“…the Navajo Nation wrote in its lawsuit that products with the “Navajo” name still are sold through other company brands, like Free People, in catalogs and retail stores.

The clothing boutique’s website features several pieces of jewelry labeled vintage “Navajo” with turquoise stones and silver. A description for a handmade cuff says it originally was sold at a trading post, and has etched arrow detailing with a “sterling” stamp on the back.”

This is why we don’t shop at Urban Outfitters: as the company continues to grow its brand – multiple brands! – it finds more ways to lie to and exploit their customers, which include minorities of all sizes, races, genders and backgrounds, and shoves those that originated their designs – native tribes, independent designers – under the rug.  Urban Outfitters’ spokesperson Ed Looram said as much when this whole Navajo clusterfuck started last October:

“Like many other fashion brands, we interpret trends and will continue to do so for years to come.  The Native American-inspired trend and specifically the term ‘Navajo’ have been cycling thru fashion, fine art and design for the last few years.”

Does anyone else read that as, “We don’t care about your trademark, or your culture; we just care about the trends that make us money”?  Or is that just my…interpretation?  Because if so, I’d like to interpret Urban Outfitters’ choice to continue selling items that blatantly rip off other cultures after they’ve been told to stop as a clear indication that they don’t want anyone who respects those cultures to shop there.

Thanks for making it easier, URBN.  I appreciate it.

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3 Responses to “Navajo Nation Sues Urban Outfitters”

  1. [...] Native American-inspired trend has been done horribly wrong by some (think Urban Outfitters) and figuring out how to enjoy the trend without falling into cultural appropriation is hard.  [...]

  2. [...] native that, four hours before arriving in their Honda Accord sedan, stopped by Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters to buy their “cultural appreciation” attire that has been through the hands of [...]

  3. Jeff Bertel says:

    No updates in 4 days?! Mr. Gurth must be dead, rest in peace

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