There’s a thin line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. The latter has drawn the ire of the fashion community by way of Paul Frank’s Fashion Night Out event.

The designer hosted a “Dream Catchin” party with a Native American culture theme. Employees and celebrities wore glow-in-the-dark war paint, feather headbands, bow and arrows and posed with prop tomahawks, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Jezebel reports Paul Frank’s monkey was dressed in a feather headdress and there were “specialty cocktails with names like “Rain Dance Refresher,” “Dream Catcher,” and “Neon Teepee.”

The soirée had bloggers, including some of Native American descent, in an uproar, calling the event as a mockery of their culture.

Paul Frank offered this apology on Facebook in response:

“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.”

The reactions have been varied. While some feel it is as disrespectful to Native American culture as a party of blackface, others feel it’s not racist, since it’s not meant to be hateful.

What are your thoughts, Clutchettes? Is this form of cultural appropriation racist?

  • African Mami

    Cultural appropriation, without involvement from the culture being celebrated/represented, ends up being a PR nightmare. This was NOT a case of racism. Sometimes, I think people are too quick to jump on the “racist” bandwagon. In my opinion, if you are going to appropriate a culture, make the efforts to consult with people from that culture!

  • Pseudonym

    yIKES!

    I wasn’t there so won’t support or attack this particular event, however I think having food, music, dancing, and dress should all be pretty safe “appreciation/celebration/admiration” territory for parties. I’ve seen plenty of Bollywood-themed parties on TV thrown by white people where they had curries, dancers, and musicians and all attendees wore saris and didn’t find any of them to be offensive, but rather like a fun, cheap way to “go to India” for the night.

    Also, not everyone has Native American friends that they can party with and have the “authentic” experience, but that shouldn’t mean that they can never experience anything related to a pow wow.

    Maybe a good idea would be for companies as big and public as Paul Frank to have a team of cultural consultants when planning these types of events. Race in the US is such an insanely sensitive issue- I don’t know if there’s really anything that can please everyone. Seems people either feel they’re being unfairly targeted or ignored, depending on the day with nothing being deemed appropriate.

  • http://saidahali.tumblr.com Saidah Ali

    Um, wow. You apparently missed the headresses (considered sacred), tomahawks, bows and arrows, and and so-forth that were supplied for pictures. A few celebrities took pictures of themselves pretending to “scalp” each other and pretending to “war whoop” (you know the hand-mouth sound). Yeah. I’m not seeing the difference between this and supplying face paint so your guests can dress up in black face. Actually, there IS no difference. The point of the entire party was to “play” Indian, using obnoxious Native American stereotypes.

    I can’t believe a person of color would even question whether or not this was “all in good fun.”

    For those who still don’t get it, read it from an actual Native’s perspective.

    http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2012/09/paul-frank-offends-every-native-person.html

    I’m embarrassed for Clutch right now.

  • Yb

    I still haven’t gotten over the fact that the monkey is wearing a headress. What are the implying Native Americans are? Monkeys? SMH

    And shame on the people of color who participated in this foolishness.

  • Jenese

    Doesn’t this say headdress?

    “The designer hosted a “Dream Catchin” party with a Native American culture theme. Employees and celebrities wore glow-in-the-dark war paint, feather headbands, bow and arrows and posed with prop tomahawks, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

    Jezebel reports Paul Frank’s monkey was dressed in a feather headdress and there were “specialty cocktails with names like “Rain Dance Refresher,” “Dream Catcher,” and “Neon Teepee.”

    Reading is fundamental.

    And just because they broached the conversation doesn’t mean they agree with either angle.

    It’s sad that instead of articulating your point of view and fostering good debate, you have to resort to insulting the site or the two commenters above who disagree with you.

    You should be embarassed.

  • http://saidahali.tumblr.com Saidah Ali

    No, my point was not that they wrote it. I’m wondering if they actually PROCESSED what they wrote. Reading is nice. Comprehension is better.

    Saying that I should be reticent because Clutch was “just staring a conversation,” is like saying I should be less pissed that Thaddeus Russell believes that slavery “wasn’t really as bad as we think it is,” because he’s “just trying to consider the options.” Screw that. Slavery was a horror and Paul Frank threw a racist party.

    There’s a difference between having a party celebrating Native Cultures (emphasis on the plural), and having a party mocking Indian stereotypes. Intentionally or unintentionally, this party was racist.

  • maya

    SMH….. and white folk wounder why they are always suspected as racist. Clearly if this was “Black culture party” and they had chicken, greens,kool-aid and some watermelon blacks would be in an uproar. This situation is no different, especially how the celebrities were pretending to be scalped. That pisses me off because it reminds me off how the settlers f’ed overs the natives…but that’s another subject. And me being part Native American I find this offensive.

  • Pseudonym

    “I wasn’t there so won’t support or attack this particular event…” followed by my take on the difference between cultural appreciation and disrespect (answering the question). Seems alright to me. Do you comprehend that opening phrase? It means that I have no opinion on this party because I do not have all the information (and don’t care enough to research into it).

    Nothing in this article mentioned anything about attendees posing as if killing each other.

    Please take it down a few notches with the Internet Gangsta act. Geez! It’s only Monday- we’ve got a long way to go until the weekend.

  • Pseudonym

    It annoys me that black American people have become so sensitive about eating fried chicken, greens, (kool-aid not so much IMO) and watermelon when that is WHAT THEY EAT!!! And not only is it what they eat, but it’s what almost everyone eats!

    I am black and on of my favourite food is fried chicken: so whaaaaaat?!!!!

    It’s DELICIOUS!!!!!!
    (So delicious that they cook it in almost every single country on this planet!)

    If this was a “Caribbean/Jamaican culture” party and they had curry chicken and roti, callalou, rum-spiked sorrel called “Jamaican Me Crazy,” danced to reggae tunes, and wore dreadlock hats, I wouldn’t be offended. Now, if they smoked weed and acted rude, then I’d be mad.

    To me, the key to gauging the difference is the presence or absence of admiration and/or ridicule.

    I wasn’t at this party, so can’t say in this particular case, but if I learn to roll sushi, wear a silk geisha outfit or Japanese robe, and serve my friends while playing Japanese folk music, I don’t think anything in that should be misconstrued as racist. Japan is mad expensive- that trip is gonna have to wait a few years.

  • luvlife289

    So stupid & ignorant… when will people learn and come up w/ more original ideas?

  • http://www.womanist-musings.com/ Renee Martin

    One of the things that bothers me about this is the idea that because he didn’t intend it to be racist that it isn’t racist. Intention doesn’t mean anything and doesn’t suddenly render something harmless. It’s not for him to say whether it is or isn’t racist; that’s for the effected community to decide and if they determine this horrendous party to be racist then it is. But honestly, how could he think that holding a party like this could be deemed anything other than offensive?

  • Keke

    I agree. And for anyone who feels this wasn’t racist, ask yourself what do you actually know about Native cultures besides what you see on tv or read in books? Most Native peoples did not scalp, run around “whooping” and were just as varied in their beliefs, political structures and social norms as any group of people from Africa or Europe.

    That’s like some random guy “celebrating,” Black culture by posing not only in Blackface, but also hosting a minstrel show. Just like demeaning Black culture isn’t right, demeaning Native cultures isn’t right either. Native peoples were basically wiped out by disease, colonization and discrimination. What most people don’t understand is that there were MILLIONS of Natives people when colonists arrived. Ask yourselves why aren’t there millions now? Ask yourself what happened to them and then see if you still think “celebrating,” their culture in this manner is appropriate.

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  • Dusty Bottoms

    Can everybody just lighten up here? In many cases, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Is nobody allowed to copy the style of any culture they are not born into? Hogwash! Everybody needs to stop being so offended and get a life.

  • http://kalihuru.wordpress.com Kalhu

    The hard part about this is that they [Paul Frank] may have had the best intentions and just wanted to throw a fun themed party but what people have to realize is that it’s hard out here for us. As a whole, our [Native American] culture has been relegated to a flat, stereotypical concept in the media and people have to understand that yes, we will be a little more sensitive about situations like this. We’re not trying to lash back about every little thing, it is just that it gets hard when the only portrayals of your people and culture in the media are that of the red-skinned, feather headdress wearing warriors whooping around on a horse.

    Think about African Americans portrayal in the media in the 50′s and how we were only relegated to the mami role. We were probably a little more sensitive about our portrayal back then too and since that time it has been hard fought for to get better representation for us in the media. I am not saying that we are wholly there yet but as an African American and Chicamauga (Cherokee) women I can attest to the fact that I can flip through a magazine or through the channels on my tv and see more representation of my black side than my native side- way more in fact!

    I don’t say this trying to start any arguments with anyone, I just challenge you to think about how hard it would be to live in a country that your family has lived in for generations before anyone even showed up and to not be represented in that same country’s society.

    And lastly, I challenge each and everyone of you to think back to the last time you saw a Native American in the media. Bonus points if it wasn’t Pocahontas or someone fighting off cowboys.

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