The opposite of appropriation.
September 19, 2017 9:15 PM   Subscribe

Bethany Yellowtail is a fashion designer from the Crow and Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservations in Montana. Her designs are influenced by her grandmother's beadwork, elktooth dresses worn by powwow dancers on the Crow Reservation, old black and white photos of her family, and her political activism. "For me, it's about showing people in the mainstream fashion world -- our buyers may not be Native -- sharing a way that our women wear their regalia".

a profile by Mic with more great pictures.

A profile by the L.A. Times

Her collective, B.YELLOWTAIL "features art from 15+ Native American makers...to share more authentic indigenous art with the world while providing empowering, entrepreneurial initiatives for Native people."
posted by Grandysaur (12 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
These are beautiful especially that beaded purse by her great grandmother. Wow.
Now... am I allowed to buy this and wear it? Because I'm left with the impression that while it's for sale by aboriginal artist, I just can't wear it. Like saying the N word in a rap song. You just don't. Yes? No? Help me out here bc that purse is amazing.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:53 AM on September 20, 2017


Native American artisans have been selling their work to white people for centuries. I doubt that any of them expected the items would not be used. The line that should not be crossed ought to lie a lot closer to mimicry of NA traditional dress than to carrying a purse one of them has made.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:39 AM on September 20, 2017 [11 favorites]


Now... am I allowed to buy this and wear it? Because I'm left with the impression that while it's for sale by aboriginal artist, I just can't wear it.

Absolutely! This is fashion, and it's offered in the marketplace of fashion for everyone to wear. In fact, it's exactly what Native designers want - that non-Natives buy work that directly supports Native artists in their enterprises, as well as their suppliers and staff, rather than appropriating their designs without credit or compensation, as major companies like Urban Outfitters and Calvin Klein have.

You can find many more great designers and fashion pieces offered for general sale at Beyond Buckskin- check out the blog and artist profiles, too. And for more on the issue of misappropriated design - which you'd be right to refuse to wear - see the blog Native Appropriations (and its fashion tag).

Probably my favorite piece by Bethany Yellowtail is the little shift dress[scroll down] she did in collaboration with photographer Matika Wilbur, for Wilbur's Project 562.
posted by Miko at 5:35 AM on September 20, 2017 [10 favorites]


Ms. Yellowtail specifically references the mainstream fashion world and buyers who may not be Native, so I'm assuming she's selling her pieces on the open marketplace with the aim that anyone who buys them, will wear them.

From the FAQ of the Beyond Buckskin Boutique, an online store which sells Native American designs: We work with Native American artists who create garments, jewelry and accessories that can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of background. Our artists know how to create items that draw from their Native American backgrounds, yet do not include any sacred aspects that should never be sold. We definitely want non-Native people to purchase from Native American artists as opposed to places like Urban Outfitters or Forever 21, since these companies make a lot of money off of a caricature of our cultures.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:36 AM on September 20, 2017 [6 favorites]


Wow, a designer that includes XL and XXL sizes. That alone makes her more impressive than many fashion designers out there today.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 6:29 AM on September 20, 2017 [9 favorites]


The dress based on her grandmother's beadwork is beautiful!
And, uh, the knockoff is an ugly caricature, both in spirit and in actual aesthetic appeal.
posted by telepanda at 8:47 AM on September 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


When I saw the knockoff dress I felt at first that there was a chance it was inspired by traditional Balkan textiles, which also incorporate bright colors and geometric patterns. Like these. Given that the label's creative director is Macedonian, it seemed possible. However, I was looking at his label's other offerings and it seems clear that in fact he is deliberately drawing on Native American design motifs.
posted by Aubergine at 9:13 AM on September 20, 2017


Here's a nice piece from the Star Tribune on Beyond Buckskin
posted by Ber at 11:14 AM on September 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


Now... am I allowed to buy this and wear it? Because I'm left with the impression that while it's for sale by aboriginal artist, I just can't wear it.

I (and the designer) would say this is not cultural appropriation, but you will eventually get the side eye or even a confrontation from someone accusing you of cultural appropriation (especially if you post photos of yourself wearing them to your social media). So be prepared to repeatedly have to justify your outfit if you buy these pieces and aren't a person of color. Which is a shame, because they are nice styles, personally.

Your experience might vary, but it's something to keep in mind.
posted by AlSweigart at 12:41 PM on September 20, 2017


"So be prepared to repeatedly have to justify your outfit..."

It just occurred to me that this is an excellent opportunity to do some privileged-person emotional labor. Wear the clothes! If anyone calls you out or complements you, spread the good word of non-appropriative Native made fashion.

Having to defend your (ethically sound) fashion choices seems to be a mild inconvenience in the face of looking fly AF and being part of the solution.
posted by Grandysaur at 1:08 PM on September 20, 2017 [7 favorites]


It just occurred to me that this is an excellent opportunity to do some privileged-person emotional labor. Wear the clothes! If anyone calls you out or complements you, spread the good word of non-appropriative Native made fashion.

Having to defend your (ethically sound) fashion choices seems to be a mild inconvenience in the face of looking fly AF and being part of the solution.


This this this! I would add, do this emotional labor with your friends and acquaintances. Random Nosy Parker strangers who butt in can get the cold shoulder. But if your friends question your fashion choices, refer them to this article and Beyond Buckskin and tell them to buy and wear designs by Native American designers and artists and not mass-market retailers!

I, personally, love the idea of supporting independent artists whose livelihood this is. Buy one of Bethany Yellowtail's designs, or anyone selling on Beyond Buckskin, and you're putting food on someone's table.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:22 PM on September 20, 2017 [3 favorites]


Or, alternately, refuse to justify your behavior to some holier-than-thou stranger who accosts you in the park and asks you where you got a purse. That sort of person has some serious issues with basic human decency and besides, anyone could lie about virtually any item and say, "I bought this from a [insert-ethnic-group here] person."

If someone you actually know inquires about where you got a handbag and you want to tell him, that's great. If someone makes a big political fight out of it and assumes bad faith on your part, feel free to ignore him.
posted by koavf at 1:25 PM on September 20, 2017


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