Urban Outfitters: Stop appropriating traditional cultural designs from Ethiopia & Eritrea
  • Petitioned Urban Outfitters

This petition was delivered to:

Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters: Stop appropriating traditional cultural designs from Ethiopia & Eritrea

    1. Petition by

      L M

      St. Paul

A friend made me aware on twitter earlier today (3/17/2013) that Urban Outfitters is selling traditional Ethiopian and Eritrean dresses as a product called "Vintage Linen '90 Dress" for $209.

This is the product in question: http://www.urbanoutfitters.com/urban/catalog/productdetail.jsp?id=27565290&parentid=SEARCH+RESULTS

We are raising awareness about this issue, because Urban Outfitters has outright stolen from Eritrean and Ethiopian cultural and traditional clothing. The material, design, and fabric in Urban Outfitters' "Vintage Linen '90 Dress" is actually not vintage and it is not linen. This is literally a design and fabric taken out from Ethiopian and Eritrean culture, which we call "zuriya" (in Tigrinya) or "hager lebs" (in Amharic). From the design of the waistline, sleeves, fabric, to the thick stripe of colored fabric at the hem, this is exactly what zuriya and hager lebs look like.

As Ethiopians and Eritreans in the diaspora, and others concerned about racism and cultural exploitation, we are offended by this because Urban Outfitters is not giving credit where credit is due. This company has lifted from our cultures - cultures with rich traditions, cultures which take pride in our traditional style of dress - and appropriated them as its own. Urban Outfitters is committing cultural theft, and it is deeply disrespectful, and racist.

Not only that, but Urban Outfitters already has a well-known record of stealing and appropriating from various cultures, rebranding them, and selling them as their own, namely its "Navajo" labeled clothing line -- which is deeply offensive to people of Native American heritage. If you want more proof of Urban Outfitters history of problematic representations of diverse cultures and expropriating from those cultures, check out this piece:


1. Video of my phone conversation with an Urban Outfitters customer representative on Monday:

2. The Young Turks explain where UO's "vintage" clothing actually comes from (Goodwill and other flea markets):

3. Facebook event and group pages:

Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/184516118369553/?fref=ts

Group: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Urban-Outfitters-Committing-Cultural-Theft/507443982626667

Recent signatures


    1. Reached 7,000 signatures
    2. Updates!

      L M
      by L M
      Petition Organizer

      Day 4 of #MYcultureNOToutfit campaign, our Change.org petition against Urban Outfitters has reached 5,729 signatures from around the world! #PeoplePower! Goal is 10K. A group of us are now working on a statement to submit to UO's corporate office, asking for an apology and recognition of the cultural design of the dress. I'll keep you posted.

      I'm also working on an article about why this issue is significant (especially responding to those who are saying "it's just one dress").

      In the meantime, please follow/contribute to the hashtags #MYcultureNOToutfit and #AfricanOutfitters. Also join/"like" the Facebook pages and submit pictures of you wearing your own "vintage 90s linen dress" aka hager lebs and zuriya! Thanks again everyone for your continued support!!! ♥ #PeoplePower

      -Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/184516118369553/?fref=ts
      -Group page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Urban-Outfitters-Committing-Cultural-Theft/507443982626667?fref=ts

    3. Reached 5,000 signatures
    4. I spoke with a customer service rep...

      L M
      by L M
      Petition Organizer

      So, I just called Urban Outfitters...talked to a customer service rep. I'll be sharing what she said with y'all soon....it ain't over yet though. Tweet at #MYcultureNOToutfit, the designated hashtag for this! And please keep signing the petition! We're almost at 4,000 signatures in 24 hours (amazing).

    5. Reached 3,000 signatures


    Reasons for signing

      • 8 months ago

      If my own traditional dress was imitated and it's rich cultural heritage was not even acknowledged/appreciated, I would be offended. It is subtle cultural exploitation.

    • Besega Berhane LOS ANGELES, CA
      • 8 months ago

      This is disrespecting my culture

    • Hannah Monat CLARKSTON, MI
      • 8 months ago

      This isn't the only time Urban outfitters have unfairly stolen from cultures

      • 9 months ago

      Why wouldn't it be?

    • Alison guerin AUSTRALIA
      • 9 months ago

      I feel I would have bought such an item without a second thought, this article has brought my attention


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