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: