For years consumers have been speaking out against cultural appropriation by large retailers in the name of “trends”, but finally some legal justice has been served—the Navajo Nation has reached a settlement with Urban Outfitters over the store’s use of Navajo “inspired” designs.
The Farmington Daily Times reports that while some of the details of the settlement will remain confidential, in the future, the Navajo Nation and Urban Outfitters will collaborate with each other on product lines.
The lawsuit was originally filed in 2012 when UO used not only Navajo patterns, but the Navajo name on products ranging from flasks to clothing. The issue—other than theft and general disrespect—was that it directly posed competition to Navajo tribe’s market, potentially confusing consumers.
This outcome is a big deal as it not only protects Navajo culture, but it also sets a precedent that cases like this will not be tolerated. It also outlines a great example of how large retailers can respectfully take inspiration without crossing over to appropriation: Get permission, work together, and give credit where credit is due. Had the corporate retailer and others like it (in this particular instance we can single UO out, but appropriation and intellectual property theft is a far reaching problem) been willing to partner with the Navajo Nation in the first place, this four year legal battle could have been completely avoided.
With any hope this will be a wakeup call to consumers as well—be conscious of what you are buying. There is a way to pay homage to other cultures through fashion, and that is to be mindful and educated of what things mean, as well as making sure that people from said culture are the ones profiting from their work.