"Urban Outfitters' line of Navajo-branded clothing and accessories has set off a firestorm online and within the Navajo Nation government, with allegations of trademark violations and criticism of the products -- particularly underwear and a liquor flask -- that many tribal members consider disrespectful.
Native American-inspired prints have shown up on runways for years, and it's common for designers to borrow from other cultures.
But the Navajo government's issue with Urban Outfitters is the clothing chain's use of the name "Navajo" on its products and in marketing. The tribe holds at least 10 trademarks on the name that cover clothing, footwear, online retail sales, household products and textiles.
Urban Outfitters, which has stores across the country and overseas, said it has not heard from the Navajo Nation and has no plans to alter its products.
Urban Outfitters labels more than 20 products on its website with the word "Navajo," including jackets, earrings, scarves and sneakers. But the two items that have sparked possibly the most controversy online are the "Navajo Hipster Panty," and the "Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask." Both have geometric designs common in Navajo arts and crafts.
A "Navajo" flask is "extremely insensitive" considering the long history of alcohol abuse among Native tribes, many of which ban the sale and consumption of alcohol on their reservations, he said. The Navajo Nation is among them. And branding underwear as "Navajo" goes against the tribe's spiritual beliefs of modesty and avoidance of indecency, Clauschee said.
Urban Outfitters isn't alone in its Navajo-branding. Fermin Navar and his business partner, Phil Brader, signed a 75-year licensing agreement with the Navajo Nation in 2007 that allows them to sell skin care products and clothing under the Navajo name in exchange for a share of the profits. Navar said they've come up with a list of nearly two dozen companies they believe are violating the trademark.
Urban Outfitters are certainly cheeky using a registered trademark without permission. The Navajos should sue.
Fashion houses often do strange things, however, serving the emptyheads who follow fashion. I can't imagine any woman walking down the street wearing the strange things you often see on fashion catwalks. It's just a little self-engrossed subculture as far as I can see.