American fashion designer Tory Burch and her namesake fashion label may have launched her Resort 2016 collection at the beginning of the year, but it’s just now receiving backlash from the Native American community, and for good reason.
Upon clicking on Burch’s new collection, you’re hit with clothing donning print that resembles Pueblo pottery prints, embroidered applique dolls on bags and bikini tops and bottoms with the term Acoma in their product names. The explanation of the lookbook reads: Richly textured patterns, an inspiration in the American Southwest and the chic mix of utilitarian and feminine — introducing Resort 2016.
And that’s not it. It’s what the descriptions of these products say that raises red flags. “Our Acoma Reversible String Top is detailed with a pottery-inspired print on one side,” reads the Acoma Reversible String Top. The”pottery-inspired” Acoma Pueblo Towel is made in Portugal. And the description of the Pima Cotton Drawstring Dress reads ” the print is based on the artful look of Acoma pottery — done in the Painted Desert colors of the American Southwest.”
Burch’s new collection also features a dream-catcher necklace —the centerpiece ring wrapped in white leather complete with a wishbone with gold-dipped white feathers which “evokes the dramatic look and feel of Native American handicraft artful design beautifully plays to the season’s Southwestern theme— and Embroidered Doll Sandals that appear to have a Hopi Katsina doll on the front.
According to designer’s blog, Tory Daily, Burch opened up about the inspiration behind Resort 2016. “The work of Carl Auböck and the American Southwest. For Resort 2016, this translates to an easy, relaxed collection and a modern take on the homespun. We balanced utilitarian and feminine elements, minimalist shapes with textured fabrics, stitch details, smocking and fringe.”
Carl Auböck is an Austrian artist known for his modern industrial design work.
Burch admits the southwestern details she incorporated was all about the color palette and print motifs. “Pale blue, green and dusty reds and pinks worked into desert florals, a deeper-hued leaf pattern and a whimsical conversational print.” She also mentions, “we wanted to reflect the landscape through textures like smocking and embroidery, which are seen throughout the collection, and basket-woven details on bags and shoes.”
However, when asked more about the prints, she states, “a graphic pattern from a traditional pottery motif.”
Although it’s evident Burch was inspired by the southwest landscapes and cultures, it’s pretty clear the designer takes most inspiration from the Acoma Pueblo, at least according to the term Acoma in some of the products which also don Acoma Pueblo pottery patterns.
“Strikes no resemblance to anything close to Acoma pottery designs which are still not ok but now you attach the name of ACOMA to it and this rubs me the wrong way,” explains Loren Aragon, an Acoma Pueblo multimedia artist, and engineer. “Think about this for a minute. Now it just makes it ‘OK’ to take ACOMA and put it on something that is not a true representation of our culture/art by someone who is NOT even native and namely ACOMA.”
We then asked Aragon what he thought of the patterns Burch used on some of her products that had Acoma in the name. “There is a lot of use of the same geometric shapes, patterns, fine line detail, and colors (black on white, with ochre/orange). The overall layouts are off,” he explains. Aragon elaborates, “They try to perhaps make subtle changes so it’s not exact but again it’s the idea of tagging this as ACOMA that has me annoyed. There are LOTS fabrics that carry similar designs but they are almost always inaccurate or a clash between various tribe designs and they are called in more general terms southwest designs.”
What offended Aragon, even more, was the Hopi Katsina doll designs for the purse and shoes. “First off they are a sacred item. And even though they are shared as artistic pieces by Hopi artists they bear meaning and a story to be told that belong to the Hopi,” Aragon explains. “The Hopi are more open to sharing that side of their beliefs in their entities but as Pueblo brethren, we all share the beliefs of all the entities and it strikes at us in the misuse of the spiritual representation of these items by non-native people.”
The culture of the Acoma Pueblo tribe, Hopi tribe, or of any other southwestern tribes is obviously absent from Burch’s posted mood board from the Resort 2016 collection. A Spanish architect’s project in Spain, Auböck’s paperweight chain, American artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s New Mexican home, various jewelry from Burch’s label and a butterfly are what fill the Resort 2016 inspirational collage. As to why the designer (or her team) named some of the products after the Acoma Pueblo despite not having any design direction from an actual member of the Acoma Pueblo is puzzling.
It looks like Burch and her team need to keep an eye out at the ongoing feud between the Navajo Nation and Urban Outfitters. The Navajo Nation is currently in a legal battle with the clothing giant, who sold products that featured the Navajo name along with symbols without permission.
Editor’s note: Some of the products mentioned were taken down from the Tory Burch website sometime after publishing the story. Other products’ names and descriptions were updated and corrected.