Fashion, art and culture collide with copyright issues

Los Angeles Fashion Week was just amongst us. The nine-day event began March 9 and ended March 18th. The event tied fashion with television series’, charity associations and other cultural inspirations.

Friday wrapped up the event on a trendy note with the GO Red for Women Celebrity Red Dress Fashion Show for the American Heart Association. The fashion show bestowed the American Heart Association with generous offerings, while simultaneously satisfying those among the audience with a sweet tooth for high fashion and indulgent celebrity sighting.

Saturday’s runway was streamed live on KTLA5, the network that coincidentally airs the relevant Gossip Girl series, which inspired some of the event’s fashion collaborations such as GOSSIP GIRL BY ROMEO AND JULIET COUTURE.

Fashion, like art, has a history. Art is always “borrowed,” or influenced by another agent. And like art, trends in fashion repeat. While most fashion artists do not seem bothered by this habit of borrowing, other parties without trade name contracts have proven otherwise.

In February, Navajo Nation filed suit against Urban Outfitters in the U.S District Court in New Mexico claiming that last October, the clothing company refused to halt production of prints using the “Navajo name” and Native American designs, which falsely insinuated the tribes’ authentic making.

The Navajo Nation expressed their disappointment with the “derogatory and scandalous” panties selling five for $25 at Urban Outfitters.

In an interview on KPCC, President of Navajo Nation Ben Shelly says “we are very proud of our land and are proud of our heritage and who we are… it’s also called Navajo, that’s what we are, and we’re a sovereign government.”

Navajo Nation is the largest Native American tribe in the U.S.A. The reservation stretches across 2,000 square miles with more than 300,000 members in the states of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.

President Shelley adds “Consultation is always our policy” and insists that, “if companies that are doing this would’ve come to the Navajo Nation, we may have some input. We may even help the businesses.”

Urban Outfitters is known to follow fashion trends as they come. And so, Shelley suggests that “how about (they) bring it on the reservation, (and) let the Navajo people make it for you, it will be authentic, and it will be made by Navajo.”

The Native-American trademark is copyrighted under the 12-year-old federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act.

But, where is the line drawn when it comes to art ‘borrowing?’

Would Pablo Picasso have fallen under illegal jurisdiction for his African-influenced artwork? How about the high-fashion designs by Rodarte last fall that brought “the world a Vincent Van Gogh Inspired Collection?”