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Appropriate? Or Appropriation? Native American Fashion and Identity – Fashion Show and Panel

With Adrienne Keene, Jessica Metcalfe, Susan Scafidi, and Shayne Watson
November 19th, 2014
7:00 PM


What makes some uses and representations of Native American cultural symbols appropriate, and others inappropriate? How should consumers evaluate the appropriateness of a garment or accessory they’re considering purchasing? What factors should non-Native American designers consider before incorporating Native American symbols and materials in their designs? How do intellectual and cultural property law affect the marketing of cultural symbols?

These issues – and more – were explored during an evening discussion in November 2014. Beautiful fashions designed by Native American designers were also on display.

Media coverage:

“Our Ancestors Were Stylish” in by  Miranda Goodwin-Raab in The Standard, November 27, 2014.

Runway Ripoffs: How Native American Fashion is Misused, Misinterpreted by Ezgi Ustundag, in Duke Today, November 20, 2014

Reflection on “Appropriate or Appropriation: Native American fashion show by Stephanie Wu, in The Duke Chronicle, November 20, 2014, pp 8 & 10

Adrienne Keene

Brown University

Adrienne Keene, Ed.D. (Cherokee) Post-doctoral Fellow at Brown University (focusing on Native American access to higher education), author of the blog “Native Appropriations” Twitter: @NativeApprops

Adrienne Keene is the author of Native Appropriations, a blog dedicated to pushing back against stereotypes and misrepresentations of Native peoples. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Adrienne is passionate about reframing how the world sees contemporary Native cultures. Through her writing and activism, she questions and problematizes the ways Indigenous peoples are represented in fashion, the media, and pop culture–asking for celebrities, large corporations, and designers to consider the ways they incorporate “Native” elements into their work. Outside of the blog, Adrienne is a postdoctoral fellow in Anthropology at Brown University, where her research focuses on Native students navigating the college application and transition processes, highlighting stories of resilience and success.

Jessica Metcalfe

Jessica Metcalfe, Ph.D. (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), author of Beyond Buckskin blog and owner of its accompanying boutique, Twitter: @beyondbuckskin

Dr. Jessica R. Metcalfe (Turtle Mountain Chippewa) earned her Ph.D. in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on Native designers of high fashion, and is in the process of editing her dissertation for a book manuscript. She is the main author of the website, Beyond Buckskin, which focuses on all topics related to Native American fashion, and is the owner of the Beyond Buckskin Boutique, which promotes and sells Native-made couture, streetwear, jewelry, and accessories.

She has taught courses in American Indian studies, studio art, art history, and literature at tribal colleges and state universities. She has presented at numerous national conferences, lectured at museums, and co-curated exhibitions. Her current work focuses on Native American art, clothing, and design from all time periods, with an emphasis on contemporary artists.

Susan Scafidi

Fordham Law

Susan Scafidi, Professor at Fordham Law and Founder of the Fashion Law Institute, Duke alumna, and author of Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law (2005), blogs at Counterfeit Chic, Twitter: @CounterfeitChic

Professor Susan Scafidi serves as academic director of the Fashion Law Institute, a nonprofit based at Fordham Law School and the world’s first center dedicated to legal issues involving the fashion industry. She is also the first professor ever to offer a course in Fashion Law and is internationally recognized for her expertise and her leadership in establishing the field. She has testified regarding the proposed extension of U.S. legal protection to fashion designs and continues to work actively with members of Congress and the fashion industry on the proposed Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act (formerly the Design Piracy Prohibition Act) and other issues.  Prior to establishing the Fashion Law Institute with the assistance of the Council of Fashion Designers of America and its president, Diane von Furstenberg, Professor Scafidi was a tenured member of both the law and history faculties at SMU and also taught at a number of other law schools, including Yale and Georgetown.  After attending Duke University and the Yale Law School, she pursued graduate study in legal history at Berkeley and the University of Chicago and clerked for Judge Morris S. Arnold of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Professor Scafidi is the author of the book Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law, as well as numerous articles in the areas of intellectual property, cultural property, and of course fashion law. She also maintains a website on fashion law, Counterfeit Chic, which has been recognized as one of the ABA’s top 100 legal blogs.

Shayne Watson


Shayne Watson (Navajo), designer at Shayne Watson Designs, was born and raised in Chinle, Arizona. The 27 year-old has been sewing since the age of 15, but is only in the third year of his professional career as a designer. Shayne Watson Designs features a fashion line that includes Navajo “Old Style” traditional wear, Native Pendleton contemporary wear, evening gown/formal wear, pow wow appliqué, and beadwork. He was a featured designer in National Aboriginal Fashion Week (Canada) in 2013 and 2014, the 2014 Colorado Fashion Week, and will be featured as an Aboriginal Designer with his new evening and wedding gown collection in the NYC Couture Fashion Week in September 2015.