Influencer Jenn McNaughton identifies and interprets fashion trends and inspirations of the moment, with a nod to where they’re coming from and how to make them your own.
Whilst recently listening to Man Repeller founder, Leandra Medine’s solo podcast Monocycle, I realized the media’s coverage of “festival dressing” is similar to how she explains New Year’s Eve content and the exhausted efforts of reporting on the event in a new light. Where to party, what to wear, who to wear it with; everything right down to the panties you should be wearing is out there. Or if not, there’ll be a race to see who does it first. Anywho, I’m getting off track. The point is that when there’s too much out there, it becomes oversaturated and lines become blurred, both in the way we consume the news being thrown at us and exactly how it’s conveyed to us in the first place. Suddenly, it’s a race to see who does what bigger and better—but that doesn’t come without a cost.
Cultural appropriation has *unfortunately* been the topic of much click-bait over recent months. From Kylie Jenner’s cornrow criticism to Pharrell’s ELLE UK cover donning a headdress, it’s evident that much of our society’s structuring around “buy more” capitalism and “look cool” narcissism leans on that of the oppressed.
Free People has fallen under fire for years, guilty of stretching the word “bohemian” far beyond its borders, going as far as labelling accessories “tribal-inspired” and “exotic” when referring to a navajo printed belt. In their latest collection, “festival-ready” accessories include an “” and “ ”—oh yes, I’m for real right now. Perhaps do some research before you wind up supporting FP’s offensive “laid-back vibe” without speaking a word.
Serious PSA: Navajo is the largest Native American nation in the United States, located in northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah and northwestern New Mexico. You also probably wouldn’t know that Navajo is technically “government funded” but struggles to maintain its native language through its deteriorating education programs, faces police brutality regularly and severe health concerns over environmental pollution as it houses power plants and coal mining factories.
Image Courtesy: Bethany Mollenkof /
The issue extends far beyond our own North American borders, with brands capitalizing high on influences from India and and Sub-Saharan Africa, amongst many, many more. Coachella isn’t the only festival guilty of rekindling this controversy but given that it’s the first of festival weekends to fall, commencing in mid-April, it’s my guinea pig. Festival-goers buy into this trap of wanting to look and feel “alternative” and subconsciously throw any moral compass out the window with a stop into Urban Outfitters.
However, there is one designer who is changing the way we view Native American fashion—minus any appropriation. Bethany Yellowtail, the Los Angeles-based designer originally from the Crow Nation and Northern Cheyenne Indian reservation in southeastern Montana, started her labelto represent herself creatively and reclaim the voice of Native Americans internationally. Fighting cultural erasure, Yellowtail defends her ancestry and indignity through her designs. Her collection’s lookbook features Ojibwe model, Jade Willoughby, from Whitesands First Nation in Northern Ontario, ensuring authenticity and reality is infused in every aspect of her endeavours. Osheaga has also said enough is enough to the dehumanizing ignorance, adding a ban on First Nations headdresses from the festival premises—amongst fireworks, drones and selfie sticks, no less.
So how not to feed the fire but still dress to differentiate? Vintage, vintage, vintage. Again, check your sources on where it’s from and where it originated but buying vintage not only does eco-conscious good but will ensure you find that one-of-a-kind, respectful piece. Denim is always a safe-bet. Pair with a silk cami and neck-tie for looking chic in the dessert heat.
The best thing to do is to put your money where your mouth is; same way you would if you don’t support the governments turned blind-eye towards Monsanto, you won’t buy GMO foods. If you don’t support exoticizing other cultures, don’t buy the seemingly “indie”-looking, feather-adorned bag.
And let’s enjoy the music, friends. ☮☮☮
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