11/25/2012 11:27 EST | Updated 01/24/2013 05:12 EST

Can You Wear Native Fashion Without Being Offensive?

A lot of attention has been drawn to the native fashion trend in the past year or so. From violations of the Navajo trademark, to No Doubt and Victoria's Secret experiencing a long-overdue backlash to the all-too common misuse of Plains warbonnets, the issues surrounding "native-inspired" fashion are being talked about on a wider scale.

What a lot of people are asking is, "If we love native fashion, where can we get it without engaging in cultural appropriation?"

Jessica Metcalfe (Turtle Mountain Chippewa) has been answering that question for quite some time on her blog, Beyond Buckskin. What's even more awesome is she launched the Beyond Buckskin Boutique which gives you instant access to legitimate native fashion, from haute couture to streetwear, modern and traditional.

The internet has provided native designers with a fantastic way of tapping into the extraordinary hunger for "Native American" fashion, and perhaps even more importantly, allow those of us who are fighting against cultural appropriation to offer some concrete alternatives to those who just really, really want this stuff.

That's what the "Buy Native" campaign recently launched by Metcalfe is aiming for. She provides a list of native run online stores you can access right now to meet all your native fashion needs.

In a recent article, Jessica Metcalfe was asked how launching a "native fashion" boutique is any different than what Urban Outfitters and so many other companies are doing. I think her response is well worth quoting here:

  1. I work with Native American artists -- folks who are active members of Native communities.
  2. These artists are exceptionally talented.
  3. They are also very knowledgeable and smart about their cultures and cultural values and know which items (i.e. sacred items) are off-limits and shouldn't be sold.
  4. They know how to translate the artistic traditions of their Native communities to be shared by people from ALL backgrounds.
  5. They don't resort to stereotypes, and they present a new vision and a new version of "the Native" in fashion.
  6. They are incredibly respectful of Native people.
  7. Profits from the Beyond Buckskin Boutique go directly to these artists and support small businesses, many of which are in Native communities and represent economic development strategies. I could go on.

This is pretty much as good as it gets, in my opinion. There is a difference between appropriation and appreciation, and Metcalfe pretty clearly explains that above.

So if you are looking for real Native American fashion, browse the many native-run stores out there for some kickass presents for you or others, no matter who you are or where you live.

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