Jezebel noted today that online fashion retailer Asos has contemporary apparel on its site identified as “Navajo.” Asos carries products made by a number of manufacturers, and a search for “Navajo” on the site generated 372 results. Most of those, granted, were not explicitly labeled Navajo, and in fact “Aztec” is a more popular designation for products intended to be, essentially, “Indian-looking.”
A year ago, Columbus Day 2011, the popular retailer Urban Outfitters found itself in a heap of trouble — or if nothing else, bad press — when an open letter from Sasha Houston Brown of the Santee Sioux Nation went viral. Suddenly, Natives began protesting Urban Outfitters’ Native-themed products on a variety of blogs, on Facebook, and on Twitter. One common complaint was that the items were cheap approximations of items with cultural or spiritual significance. A weightier charge was that certain items, particularly those branded “Navajo” — such as the infamous “Navajo hipster panty — violated copyright laws and even the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, which made it illegal for non-Indian manufacturers or craftspeople to sell items they claimed were Indian-made.
The Navajo Nation eventually did file a suit against Urban Outfitters on jut those grounds. The case is still pending, and last week Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters put in a bid to have it moved from a New Mexico court to one in eastern Pennsylvania.
Below are some of the products labeled “Navajo” at Asos.com: