Well it’s not like we didn’t see this coming. Angel-beatifying lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret has been forced to apologise for dressing model Karlie Kloss in a Native American headdress for one of the looks presented at the brand’s annual underpants hoedown, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
Victoria’s Secret issued a public statement that said: “We are sorry that the Native American headdress replica used in our recent fashion show has upset individuals. We sincerely apologize as we absolutely had no intention to offend anyone. Out of respect, we will not be including the outfit in any broadcast, marketing materials nor in any other way.”
The outfit Kloss modeled, drew criticism for its cultural appropriation of Native American regalia, receiving instant backlash through social media, Native American groups and spokespeople, and the press. It also drew criticism for everyone with working eyes for just being completely hideous.
One Native American writer Sasha Houston Brown described her response to the outfit in an article published in Indian Country Today writing: “Despite what dominant society and mainstream media say, Native culture is a vibrant and living culture.”
“We are not a relic of the past, a theme or a trend, we are not a style or costume, we are not mascots, noble savages or romantic fictional entities. We are human beings and despite all odds, we have survived.”
Of course, the fashion industry has had many run-ins with accusations of racism and for appropriating sacred cultural items or iconography in the past. Rodarte and M.A.C. were panned for a collaborative beauty line called ‘Juarez’, which they named after an impoverished Mexican town best known for the hundreds of young women who have been raped and murdered there; Australian swimwear label Lisa Blue was panned for depicting the Hindu goddess Lakshmi on a suit; and ADIDAS canceled Jeremy Scott’s ankle “shackle” sneakers… However, the VS Fashion Show is still the fashion industry’s pinnacle showcase of grotesque cultural stereotypes.
While the Native American headdress was the only runway outfit publicly condemned for its cultural insensitivity, we should also make note of the fact that the Irish have been represented as shamrock-toting leprechauns.
Photos by Jamie McCarthy for Getty Images