Crossover: Lakota Quilts and Fast Fashion’s Stab at Native American Heritage

1915 lakota quilt

Sometimes the lines in design are blurred. Fashion collections, inspired by the past, present as well as future, often feature a “Crossover” in design where one industry riffs off the other, emulating classic lines and form. Here we pick two standouts from differing industries to show that overlap.

“40,000 years ago, an ancient hunter drew a picture of a bison on a cave wall,” says the narrator behind “A Whiteboard History of Storytelling. While we know that early storytellers were more interested in telling others about basic survival than anything else, these storytellers were also pioneering artists that helped put human history on the books (or that is, cave walls).

Consider this Dakota (Eastern Sioux) or Lakota (Teton Sioux) quilt currently up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky exhibit. Created in 1915 by Rebecca Blackwater (American, active 20th century, Santee, Nebraska, or Rosebud, South Dakota), the quilt is a work of art highlighting Blackwater’s idea of survival and reflections of life. It’s also just plain beautiful.

Sacred Native American symbols and patterns find Crossover in the strangest and oftentimes most offensive ways.

Consider the ongoing battles between fast fashion retailer Urban outfitters and the Navajo Nation.

urban outfitters navajo

Do hipster panties tell us a story worthy of the Navajo patterns? Do flasks clad in Navajo print symbolize more to a typical Urban Outfitter’s shopper than just a secret place to stash booze?

There’s no contest to who the artist is here but I ask you to consider, with more trends embracing fur, leathers, ethnic symbols and some type of search for a more raw America, are we dumbing down the sacred or merely trying to emulate American History?

The Met’s exhibit asks these questions simply by using artifacts to talk history.

The question about crossover is for you to ponder.