Chanel accused of cultural appropriation over $1,725 boomerang
Critics say luxury brand shouldn't profit off Australian Aboriginal heritage
Venerable French fashion house Chanel is facing an online backlash for offering an accessory that critics say appropriates the cultural heritage of Australia's Aboriginal people for profit.
The accessory, a Chanel-branded boomerang made of wood and resin, appears on the company's website with a recommended Canadian retail price of $1,725.
The boomerang gained attention online after make-up artist and model Jeffree Star posted pictures of it on Instagram and Snapchat.
"This is a cultural symbol of Indigenous Australians, for a high end fashion brand to create reproductions and profit off something culturally significant that doesn't belong to them is disgusting," wrote one Instagram user commenting on Star's post.
"Personally, I think this is disgusting — my culture isn't a a toy just to slap a brand on it," wrote another user.
The backlash over the pricey boomerang continued on Twitter.
Have decided to save for the next three years so I can connect with my culture via <a href="https://twitter.com/CHANEL">@CHANEL</a> <a href="https://t.co/ocZSljGkPW">https://t.co/ocZSljGkPW</a>—@NayukaGorrie
Unless <a href="https://twitter.com/CHANEL">@CHANEL</a> is donating 100% of the proceeds to <a href="https://twitter.com/aimementoring">@aimementoring</a> or something, this is a gross monetisation of an oppressed group's culture—@KB4realz
The boomerang is a weapon and tool used by Australian Aboriginal people for hunting, war and ceremonial purposes. In modern times, boomerangs are also sold as artwork.
Aboriginal Australian artists and their supporters have sought a crackdown on the sale of fake Aboriginal souvenirs, saying foreign-made knockoffs deprive artists of opportunities to sell authentic wares.
"Our artists spend hours and hours telling stories more than 50,000 years old through a variety of mediums, including painting, song, dance, creating weapons and instruments," wrote Australian journalist Madeline Hayman-Reber in a commentary for the website of Australia's National Indigenous Television channel.
"So Chanel, please don't take my culture, paint a couple of C's on it, make it expensive, and rake in the cash while many Aboriginal artists and communities continue to live in poverty," she wrote.
"Chanel is extremely committed to respecting all cultures, and regrets that some may have felt offended," a company spokesperson told Australia's Fairfax Media.
The Chanel boomerang was still being featured under "other accessories" on the fashion brand's website as of Wednesday afternoon. The boomerang is one of a number of expensive sporting accessories currently featured on the website, including a $500 package of tennis balls and a $4,300 set of beach rackets and balls.