Canadian clothing designer duo Dan and Dean Caten are the recipients of harsh criticism this week, after having been accused of being culturally insensitive and disrespectful to aboriginal culture. And I’ll admit, I get it.
The twin brothers are the creative geniuses behind Dsquared2, which debuted its latest women’s line at Milan’s Fashion Week. The fall-winter collection features pants, jackets, dresses and coats that combine tribal “decorations” with Victoria-era designs. Artistically, it’s a beautiful collection, but the name? Not so much.
They’ve dubbed the line Dsquaw, which presumably plays on the word squaw – a derogatory term for aboriginal women.
The outfits are receiving both praise and criticism online. While some applaud the duo for showcasing aboriginal and Canadian culture in an artistic way, critics pointed to the racist and ignorant use of “squaw” in the line’s name, and others saying the line has stolen or misappropriated aboriginal designs.
The label’s Facebook page promotes Dsquaw as a “captivating play on contrasts: an ode to America’s native tributes meets the noble spirit of Old Europe.” The Dsquared2 website describes the collection as “The enchantment of Canadian Indian tribes. The confident attitude of the British aristocracy.”
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DISCLAIMER: I am not an aboriginal woman. I am not an expert on aboriginal designs. In fact, I freely admit that I know very little about them other than to know that the aboriginal culture holds its artwork near and dear. I know that the beautiful, intricate patterns are the product of decades of tradition, handed down from generation to generation. And I know that many communities – aboriginal and otherwise – are struggling to preserve their cultural practices and history. (Gaelic, anyone?)
I also know that Dsquared2 represents Canada extremely well in the world of international design, and I’m confident that the #Dsquaw collection – name and all – was an (enormously) unfortunate misstep in what has been an impressive record of promoting Canadian Culture across the globe.
Recreating amazing designs as a way of paying tribute to and celebrating different cultures, in my opinion, is an extraordinary way to promote our country. But it’s not the first time a brand has come under fire for using aboriginal designs (or being inspired by them). Anyone else remember the H&M headdress fiasco? Yikes. At what point does a brand cross the line?
(For the record, I totally think H&M crossed the line with the headdress… for some reason, I’m feeling a little blurry on Dsqared2.)
At the end of the day, creative minds (musicians, writers, designers) are inspired by the world around them. I really believe that Dsquared2 set out to celebrate Canadian heritage when they created their line and I admire their effort. I just wish they’d used the same care and consideration when they chose the name. Instagram commentors felt similarly:
eronrae83: How can you not realize #Dsquaw is incredibly racist and misogynistic? Maybe donate some of the money to make to help the 1000s of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. Would you call your line #dfag or #dnword?? Open your mind. Unfollowed.
steffi_crash: SQUAW IS A RACIAL SLUR. I REPEAT. SQUAW IS A RACIAL SLUR. But you don't care about the women who have suffered, just that you are making money. If you had any decency you would pull this line and donate to an organization that supports missing and murdered indigenous women. But you won't because we are nothing to you except squaws that you can take fashion inspiration from without having to deal with the gritty daily reality many indigenous women face with rape, murder, and abuse. 1 in 3 indigenous women will be raped or sexually assaulted in her lifetime. But who cares because our heritage is so gosh darn edgy.
What do you think: Is it wrong to use aboriginal designs in non-traditional ways?
Image Source: Instagram