Aboriginal fashion boutique urges shoppers to 'buy native'

An aboriginal fashion boutique is challenging shoppers this holiday season to buy from native designers and avoid cultural "knock-offs" sold by popular clothing chains.

Beyond Buckskin promotes aboriginal designers and artists

Beyond Buckskin, a U.S.-based aboriginal fashion boutique, is challenging shoppers this holiday season to buy from native designers and avoid cultural "knock-offs" sold by popular clothing chains. 1:49

An aboriginal fashion boutique is challenging shoppers this holiday season to buy from native designers and avoid cultural "knock-offs" sold by popular clothing chains.

Beyond Buckskin is a U.S.-based website launched last year to sell clothing and accessories made by emerging and established aboriginal artists throughout North America, including Canada.

"The fashion industry is one of the hardest industries to break into, regardless of your background," Jessica Metcalfe, Beyond Buckskin's owner, told CBC News during a recent photo shoot in Winnipeg.

Jessica Metcalfe launched the Beyond Buckskin website last year to sell clothing and accessories made by emerging and established aboriginal artists throughout North America, including Canada. (Jillian Taylor/CBC)
Customers can find a wide variety of styles, from traditional to modern.

The site's holiday campaign aims to make it "insanely easy and enjoyable" for shoppers to "buy native" clothing and accessories for both men and women.

"We can be that, you know, catalyst to bring it to a broader audience," Metcalfe said.

The goal of the Buy Native campaign is to encourage shoppers to buy directly from aboriginal artists, rather than get faux-aboriginal items that have been sold by big retailers.

Faux headdresses prompted complaints

H&M stores across Canada removed faux feather headdresses from their shelves earlier this year, following complaints that the items were offensive to aboriginal people who view headdresses as sacred.

In a similar case, Victoria's Secret apologized in November for putting a native-style headdress on a model for its annual fashion show.

Meanwhile, popular clothing retailers like Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters have been selling Navajo-like printed clothes.

Metcalfe said selling cultural knockoffs is offensive and promotes stereotypes about aboriginal people.

"I work with artists and designers who are very connected to their communities. They know what items should never be for sale," she said.

Instead, the artists involved with Beyond Buckskin take aspects of their culture and make it wearable and appreciated by everyone, she added.

While some shoppers in Winnipeg said they would buy directly from aboriginal artists, some noted that knockoffs tend to be cheaper than the real thing.

"That's the way of the future. A lot of businesses are doing that," said shopper Cheryl Post.

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