By Valeria Ramirez
The new and latest trend of 2017 is taking and profiting on culture’s traditional clothing that many companies and fashion designers are being praised for as their “new” and “innovative” ideas. Many of these ideas are taken from Mexico’s indigenous tribes and Native Americans just for the sake of fashion. In what world is it okay to use one’s culture and profiting it from it for a high amount of money? Recently I saw Toms was selling a pair of huaraches for the low price of $129. You can get the exact pair in Mexico, which are handmade by the person selling them, for around 80 pesos, in dollars that are roughly $4.
So, Toms is making 30 times the amount for the original. My problem with this is that when buying the original your helping the family and appreciating the work that the seller is putting out. While Toms is mass producing a product that can be easily made for a profit. This type of style of sandal is a traditional staple in Mexican culture that has ties with the indigenous culture of Mexico. Toms is not the only company that is guilty of this capitalistic fraud, other stores such as Urban Outfitters and Victoria’s Secret have been using Native American culture to make a profit. These corporations tailor to an audience where they prefer a more “indie” type of style.
It has happened multiple times where Urban Outfitters are bringing up dreamcatchers and patterns, that resonate with the Native American culture, and putting them on their clothing. The worst thing about this is that they charge about $49 up to $69 just for one single piece. There are many symbols and traditional clothing that are meant to be sacred and the constant wear of these symbols lose their meaning. It’s not sacred anymore, thanks to the corporations that brought this style to the market.
The problem I have with these businesses is that this type of culture appropriation has taken to a new level where they take from others and rarely give back to the people who they stole from. Cultural appropriation is taking one’s culture, traditions, and specific artifacts that define a specific group without permission. Clearly, most of these businesses are taking theses traditions and symbols without permission because they know they will have to compensate.
Sadly, there is no support or compensation for the specific group or minority that they took their ideas from. I know that Toms has their buy one give one policy, but you can’t just steal a specific style of shoe that is a staple in Mexican culture and claim it yours. This type of culture appropriation has taken to a new level where they take from others and rarely give back to the people who they stole from. It sickens me to the point that many of these people go through hardships and express their traditions through their craft and it’s better for a person to admire and respect the work that they put in. Instead, they’re producing a carbon copy that is made in bulk or in large quantities that lose its meaning and value over time and is perceived to be a trend or a décor piece. Does the United States have a culture of their own that they can profit on without stealing others and being insensitive of the sacred? American companies take from the minorities all they want and have the money at their own disposal to create a new trend or style. They can simply just research the types of styles that the American culture has to offer.
This type of cultural appropriation is not helping minorities or supporting them in any way. This type of behavior is progressing into a removal of traditions and sacredness of these customs. Minorities don’t want these companies to take over their customs for profit. I wouldn’t want someone who isn’t Hispanic wearing a traditional Huichol dress just because it has a certain aesthetic. Instead of profiting off minorities and their customs, companies should just leave it alone and create their own ideas.