October 5, 2011

Proenza Schouler's Creepy Indians Video

The ever-sassy website The Gloss gives Harmony Korine's new artsy video for Proenza Schouler a big thumbs down. I think I do too. Read all the way to the bottom to learn my reasons why.

Article | Harmony Korine Directed A Really Creepy Video For Proenza Schouler
by Jamie Peck
What happens when a luxury brand gives a so-hip-it-hurts filmmaker a bunch of money to direct a short film featuring clothing from its fall collection? Snowballs happens, apparently. The Harmony Korine directed short premiered at Paris’ Club Silencio Tuesday night, a club which, fittingly enough, was designed by David Lynch.

Like much of Korine’s work, the five-minute-long head scratcher is set in a depressed corner of America, namely a rural tract of low-income housing, possibly a trailer park. To make matters worse, the film’s two main figures appear to be Native Americans, albeit creepy, gnome-like Native Americans wearing silicone masks and…Proenza Schouler, naturally. They sing a terrifying little song as they go about their business, which includes going to hang out with a white Deliverance type whose gas mask is reminiscent of the Dennis Hopper character in Blue Velvet. I don’t know about you, but I spent the entire length of the film waiting for some terrible violence to happen, and it never did. This resistance to any kind of narrative or dramatic payoff is one of the most divisive things about Korine’s work.

“It was a little disturbing. It was really uncomfortable and jarring and amazing,” socialite Lauren Santo Domingo told WWD. “I don’t know if anyone can make a crystal meth trailer park seem chic. I mean, there is something very avant-garde about it.”

After you’re done laughing at that person, can we talk about the cultural appropriation going on here? Making artsy films about disadvantaged communities you don’t belong to is one thing. Making artsy films about disadvantaged communities you don’t belong to for the purpose of selling thousand dollar couture? That’s kind of where I draw the line. Add in the element of race, and you are in way, way, way over your head. I know Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough joked that “it’s a sales deterrent, if anything,” but let’s get real. Proenza Schouler is not in the business of throwing money away just for the fuck of it. This is a storied fashion house, premiering a short film at an incredibly trendy and exclusive club, during Paris Fashion Week, for a room full of Important Fashion People. Sounds pretty promotional to me.

Way to like, totally sell out, Harmony Korine. It’s a good thing I didn’t like your films that much to begin with.
(Via The Gloss, Via Jezebel, who had this to say: The clip features clothing from Proenza Schouler's fall collection, which was inspired by a trip designers Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough took through the American West and Southwest. "We spent time in Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico exploring Native American history and their crafts and were inspired by Navajo textiles," explained Hernandez when he testified before Congress in support of a bill earlier this year. "When you look at our designs you won't see knockoffs of Navajo crafts. Instead you will see that we incorporated their feel and some of their elements to create our own originals."

NOW THE GOOD PART: That's right, Proenza Schouler can copy from Native artists, but he asks Congress to pass a bill that will help him "against copyists who prey on [his] ideas." His ideas? Tsk Tsk Proenza, quit perpetuating the idea that Native people don't have badass artists, designers, original ideas, or innovative designs, and don't deserve intellectual property rights. Efffff you.

Proenza Schouler should look to Siki Im, who was also inspired by Navajo textiles, but instead of trying to profit off of Navajo culture, Siki Im instead collaborated with Navajo textile artist Tahnibaa Naataanii. That's right, collaborate!, because cool artists exist, so stop trying to rip them off. Read it here.

Read the Testimoney of Lazaro Hernandez here, Fashion Designer & Co-Founder, Proenza Schouler, before the US House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet, Legislative Hearing on the Innovative Design protection and Piracy Prevention Act, July 15, 2011.


  1. I couldn't watching the entire thing... I agree with the article. That is totally disrespectful.

  2. The video was even worse than the analysis of it led me to believe! Those clearly young, female, stoically (yet sexual because of the permanently open mouthed) fake "Indians," with inappropriate plains-style men's headdresses are creepily vulnerable. The alteration of the voices to sound childishly high and singsongy creates a sexualization that implies child sexual abuse and predation, with the young women presented as children... Just like native people were conceived of Native people's as primitive children in need of paternal supervision by the state. In this case, the girls dance with the obese, white, aged shirtless man until he is ready to go to bed with his CPAP machine. It prevents sleep apnea. What the hell!?

  3. I thought the video badcreepy enough as it was... then I watched it again after reading travelpeapod's post... squick >.0

  4. I'm revolted on so many levels I don't even know where to start. It's ever so much more than "creepy" to me. A half-dressed pederast depicted as winning compliance from half-(tackily)dressed females in a 3-way dance so blatantly sexually exploitive that I want to scratch my eyeballs out with a fork, all in the name of "art in advertising"? I'm truly just sickened beyond words here.

  5. What the fuck was that? I had to skip parts due to the fact that it is utterly stereotyped. She needs to visit the Chatah rez, and have her actors dress like that..see how long they'll last.

  6. I couldn't even watch it a minute. I was torn between complete outrage and terror as it struck the "Jason Halloween" chords of my brain

  7. It seems that the video is making fun of america, not the indians. Travelpeapod's observations are correct, however I strongly believe the filmaker's intent is to create a very sinister and sarcastic statement on american culture.

  8. Two supposedly successful designers with creative talent toured the southwest and Wyoming learning about Indigenous peoples aesthetics and artwork and this is what they came up with???? This was the culmination of their creative inspiration? Seriously?? A creepy video?