Photos by Nneka Salmon
Fashion and cultural appropriation are more than passing acquaintances. The latter, which is typically bandied about with terms like “borrowing” or “inspired by,” refers to the unauthorized adoption of elements from another, often minority, ethnic group. The issue came to a head in February when the Navajo Nation sent Urban Outfitters a cease-and-desist letter demanding the removal of the “Navajo” trademark from than 20 of the retailer’s products, including “hipster” panties and liquor flasks, both of which the tribe deemed “derogatory and scandalous,” But the sovereign Indian Nation isn’t the first culture to be gobbled up and regurgitated under the catchall—and woefully non-specific—”tribal” heading, nor will it be the last. With Africa’s sartorial influence on the ascent, one question begs to be asked: Should the practice be lauded as diversifying fashion or is it just a different form of post-colonial exploitation?