See message from company founder Paul Frank at the end of this post.
ORIGINAL POST, SEPT. 10, 1:10 P.M.:
If you were too caught up in President Obama's acceptance speech last Thursday, you might have missed another monumental event that took place that evening: Fashion Night Out. It's the annual, nationwide kickoff to New York Fashion Week. Stores everywhere hosted mini-parties complete with fashion shows, sales, #FNO hashtags and tons of free booze.
Joining the fun was Costa Mesa-based Paul Frank–you know, of monkey-pajamas fame. The company thought it'd be super adorbz to give their West Hollywood party a neon Native American pow-wow theme. From photos posted on Native American fashion blog Beyond Buckskin, we see that the event was filled with bright purple feather headdresses, florescent talking sticks, war paint, tomahawks and cocktails with names such as Rain Dance Refresher, Dream Catcher and Neon Teepee.
Native American fashion is having a hipster moment–and that's not cool with many in Native American communities. When they see guys and girls Instagramming themselves at Coachella while wearing headdresses, feathers and warbonnets–spiritual symbols of honor and respect–it's deeply offensive as it misrepresents an entire culture. Last year, Native Americans forced Urban Outfitters to remove it's “Navajo” description from 21 items on its website. Paul Frank actually sells at least two T-shirts with its mascot Julius in Native American-inspired gear.
According to Beyond Buckskin, Paul Frank posted more than 1,000 images from the pow-wow party onto its Facebook page. Many people immediately blasted the company, writing comments such as, “It makes me sick that nobody at your company or in the hundreds of people involved in that party ever raised a red flag that this event would be hideously offensive” and “I'm a human being, not a mascot or a fashion statement or a trend.”
Yesterday, Paul Frank apologized on its Facebook page, stating:
Paul Frank celebrates diversity and is inspired by many rich cultures from around the world. The theme of our Fashion's Night Out event was in no way meant to disrespect the Native American culture, however due to some comments we have received we are removing all photos from the event and would like to formally and sincerely apologize. Thank you everyone for your feedback and support.
Some Facebook commenters say that's not enough and are calling for a boycott.
UPDATE, SEPT. 13, 12:21 P.M.: Paul Frank–the man, not the company–wants everyone to know that although he's the creator of Julius the Monkey and the co-founder of Paul Frank Industries, he currently has no ties to the brand that had partygoers prancing around with neon tomahawks. He has written a message saying he is “saddened and disappointed” by the recent news of the event. Guess that's one of the dangers of naming a company after yourself and then letting it slide into someone else's hands. His own company is called Park La Fun. Cute letterhead. (Click to enlarge.)