[Note: When first posted, this story conflated Paul Frank Sunich, the artist, with Paul Frank Industries, a business he co-founded, but left in 2005. This article has been corrected thanks to a letter ICTMN received from the artist. –Ed.]
On Thursday night, in West Hollywood, apparel company Paul Frank Industries hosted “Dreamcatchin,” as part of Fashion’s Night Out, the global fashion-industry initiative that sees retailers host shopping parties after hours.
The theme of “Dreamcatchin” was Native American culture; Paul Frank Industries’ well-known monkey mascot donned a feather headdress in promotional material. Guests applied “war paint” and posed wearing feathers and holding tomahawks or bows and arrows. Vodka-based speciality cocktails, the “Rain Dance Refresher,” the “Dream Catcher,” and the “Neon Teepee,” were served.
A small item on the party appeared in The Hollywood Reporter, and Jessica Metcalfe of Beyond Buckskin appears to have been the first to bring the event to the Native public’s attention. Over a thousand images had been posted to Paul Frank Industries’ Facebook page; Metcalfe put a bulletin on her own page and motivated her readers to register their disgust at the racially-offensive images. Facebookers did just that, and within a day the gallery had been taken down. You can read Metcalfe’s account at Beyond Buckskin.
Adrienne K offered her own thoughts at Native Appropriations in a post titled “Paul Frank offends every Native person on the planet with Fashion Night Out ‘Dream Catchin’ Pow wow'”. Both Metcalfe and Adrienne K noted with particular concern that many of the guests playing Indian for the night were very young, including celebrities from the Disney/Nickelodeon world (and Christina Milian), and quite a few were non-white.
On Sunday afternoon, the following apology was published to the Paul Frank Industries Facebook page:
Paul Frank celebrates diversity and is inspired by many rich cultures from around the world. The theme of our Fashion’s Night Out event was in no way meant to disrespect the Native American culture, however due to some comments we have received we are removing all photos from the event and would like to formally and sincerely apologize. Thank you everyone for your feedback and support.
Below are some of the images from the event (source: zimbio.com).
Finally, here is the full version of the image used at top of this story, credit to Beyond Buckskin: