January 16, 2013

Paul Frank Update | Jan 2013 and Beyond

Hi everyone! It's been a while since I've written for the blog! (there's legit reasons for this, I swear). But I wanted to give you guys a big update on the Paul Frank collaboration with Native American designers.

Last Friday, I had the amazing opportunity to visit the Paul Frank Industries headquarters located in Los Angeles. It was a meeting that included the director of licensing, the manager of public relations, the marketing manager, the VP of design, and one of the four Native designers selected for this collaboration.

It was a great meeting. It opened with the VP of design giving a brief overview and presentation on the history and style of Paul Frank. Then we switched over to a discussion about the collaboration, including marketing and events, and the other reps were open to our suggestions and interested in our ideas.

Me standing in front of the building that houses the Paul Frank offices.
They also gave me free stuff, which, I mean, makes us totally friends now. (Jokes aside, gifts are traditionally a sign of peace and friendship - so good job, PF). However, (look closely at the picture) I think they forgot that we stand in solidarity with our Hawaiian sisters and brothers when it comes to stereotyping, and the apple tee totally made me laugh (for those of you who know the symbolic meaning of 'apples' in relation to Native identity, you'll chuckle at the irony of the whole thing as well) (oh, and PS, I already fully recognize that I over-analyze everything so no need to alert me of this fact).

Paul Frank Industries actually has a pretty cool aesthetic (once you get past the cultural insensitivities) that blends 'midcentury modern' and clean design with bright colors. According to the folks we met with, they aim to put Julius the monkey in scenes that are lighthearted and fun, and this is the part that excites me since, come on, we totally love our Indian Humor. I can't wait to see what Native designers do with Julius and I am very excited for the launch of this collection.

The PF x Native Designers collaboration will be formally announced in February, and in June, Adrienne Keene (Native Appropriations) and I have been asked to be on a panel along with the president of Paul Frank Industries at the Global Licensing Show held in Las Vegas. This is our opportunity to present some of the issues related to stereotyping and cultural misappropriations in fashion. We'll focus on how companies can collaborate with Native designers to represent our people in respectful ways, using Paul Frank as a model of a successful collaboration.

It only dawned on me after I left the meeting that the PR and marketing managers might have been a little stressed out about the meeting, especially since I showed no mercy when I called them out back in September. Yes, I met the folks who 'okayed' encouraging kids to engage in scenes of 'mock scalping' and gave the green light on naming alcoholic cocktails after sacred ceremonies. Hell, they may have even thought up the ideas themselves. I shook their hands, because, in all honesty, we're trying to move forward and turn a terrible event and collection into something meaningful and positive. And I have high expectations that this will be a great, history-making collaboration between a major international company and Native American designers who are connected to their communities and care about issues of representation.

The limited edition items will launch in the Fall of 2013.