Indian Country 52 #7 – Genocide Aesthetics
“The clothing company Ralph Lauren released an online advertisement for its RRL line last month that drew scathing criticism from Native Americans.
The ad’s imagery harked back to the Old West, with henley jerseys and rustic jeans displayed in faded sepia tones. And while one page touted bandanas and “Western-style” shirts, the opposite page showed a Native American sporting a feathered headdress, holding a rifle across his lap.
Another page depicted a stoic Native American man with dark skin, braided hair and a Western shirt-and-vest combo.
Critics charged that the ads reduced people, and indeed entire cultures, to mere marketing props. Many called for a boycott. Dr. Adrienne Keene, a postdoctoral researcher and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, wrote in a post for Indian Country Today Media Network that Ralph Lauren had reached a “new low.”
“Ralph Lauren has been doing this my whole life,” Ruth Hopkins, a writer in her 30s who lives on the Spirit Lake Tribe reservation in North Dakota, told The Huffington Post. “He is a repeat offender. Cultural appropriation is apparently his thing.”
Following the outcry, the company removed the images from its website and apologized.
The episode neatly summed up an issue in fashion and pop culture that has drawn heated debate in recent years. Many people seemingly remain tethered to the idea of a romanticized Old West — a time of death and carnage for America’s indigenous population.”
– Huffington Post, Ralph Lauren’s Native American Ads Reveal Sad Truth About The Fashion World.
Ralph Lauren continues his line of Cultural Appropriation. More examples: Graphic Baseball Tee, Indigo-Dyed Graphic Tee, Jersey Graphic Tee.
Download the 18″x24″ poster (.pdf), Indian Country 52 #7 – Genocide Aesthetics (Ralph Lauren).
Indian Country 52
Indian Country 52 is a weekly project by David Bernie that uses the medium of graphic design by creating posters that promote issues and stories in Indian Country.
Creative Commons License
This work by David Bernie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. You may download, share, and post the images under the condition that the works are attributed to the artist.