February 3, 2011

Pay No Attention to the Man Beneath the Indian Blanket

Thank you Adrienne Keene for publishing an article about Pendleton on the Native Appropriations blogspot.

I too have noticed the recent Pendleton Hipster Trend, and have been conflicted about it.

Here is an article I drafted back in October, but never published:

Pay No Attention to the Man Beneath the Indian Blanket

Opening Ceremony has recently collaborated with Pendleton to create a line of garments ranging from patterned tuxedo shirts to babydoll dresses - and the full look book is available for your viewing pleasure.

Full disclosure - I like Pendleton. I like their blankets (they make awesome Christmas gifts for the fam) and baby items (cute lil gifts for my nephews!), but the collaboration with Opening Ceremony feels awkward to me. I had a hard time figuring it out, but when I looked at the collab line, I felt disconnected from it. The Pendleton company has a 100-year-long relationship with Native tribes, but it is clear to me that this collaboration steps away from that.

In the past, representatives from Pendleton would go out to Native tribes, and meet with individuals there to create blankets that would appeal to the different tribes' aesthetic preferences. However, Pendleton takes this 100-year-long lesson in Native American tribal color theory, composition, abstraction, and geometric patterns - which was taught to them by various Native nations - and tries to reorganize this knowledge into hipster outfits.

I just read this review and thought I'd share (note, I've edited it, so please read the original). The article is basically about Brooklyn opening a new clothing shop that sells to the 'well-heeled' who 'dress down':

"Barneys isn’t the problem. I am just a little concerned that fashion in general seems to be directly reflecting our cultural schizophrenia. I mean, O.K.: hippies also wore combat fatigues and Native American love-beads, as a means of expressing solidarity with peoples oppressed by the American empire.

But I am not sure it counts as sociopolitical consciousness to pay too much for workless work shirts (for all the ditches we won’t be digging) or warless war shirts, for all the fights we keep forgetting are still happening over there...

But let us not speak of Afghanistan, nor capitalism. Pay no attention to that man beneath the Indian trade blanket. Look over here, ladies: the Pendleton Thunderbird car coat ($796). Get ’em while they’re hot. They’ll be a real hit this cold, cold winter."

The issue, it seems, boils down to socioeconomics and issues pertaining to class. Who gets to participate in this trend?, and who profits?

On the other hand, I kind of like Pendleton's latest collaboration with Levi's, which will also be featured in this upcoming documentary on Navajos and rodeos:

"Bares, Broncs, and Bulls" Documentary Trailer from Selectism on Vimeo.

More Pendleton Collab Links: