Every designer has to look for inspiration for their collections, but KTZ designer Marjan Pejoski has upset a few people with his latest for Fall 2015. The collection is inspired by Native American patterns and design, or as Pejoski and WWD questionably put it, as “a tribute to ‘the primal woman indigenous to this land,’ who evolves into a sexualized, empowered being.”
Adrienne K. at Native Appropriations points out that one of the designs Pejoski presented is extremely similar to the work of Los Angeles-based Apsáalooke (Crow) and Northern Cheyenne designer Bethany Yellowtail. Adrienne says that Yellowtail’s designs come out of Crow beadwork that has existed in her family for generations, and that the geometric designs actually have meaning. Indeed, the KTZ dress in question looks rather similar to some of the patterns that come through in Yellowtail’s work.
Adrienne calls Pejoski’s interpretation a “mockery and a celebration of cultural theft.” While it is hardly a crime or an offense to be inspired by other cultures, as we know, it becomes a different animal altogether when the source of inspiration is not given the kind of credit they deserve. Still, it is difficult to say whether or not Pejoski ripped off Yellowtail’s designs (we don’t know for sure if it was Yellowtail’s particular designs or even something he saw on Tumblr or on the street that could have prompted him to design something like this). It is difficult to imagine that someone working in fashion would be ignorant of the highly sensitive nature of borrowing from other cultures, particularly Native Americans. There has been quite a bit of backlash against designers, festival goers and celebrities who choose to don headdresses or put them on a runway. Unless you live under a rock, it’s hard not to notice these instances.
Still, it begs the question: When does “inspiration” formally cross the line into appropriation? Does the very act of being inspired by a particular cultural design make it appropriation, or is it being inspired and not referencing or paying what may be considered due homage to the original inspiration? Perhaps this could have been avoided if, as Adrienne says, KTZ had made it known it consulted or included Native American designers in the making of the collection.
We reached out to KTZ’s publicist for comment and will update once we get a response.
[via Native Appropriations]