FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Victoria's Secret has apologized for putting aNative American-style headdress on a model for its annual fashion show,after the outfit was criticized as a display of ignorance toward tribalculture and history.
The company responded to the complaints overthe weekend by saying it was sorry to have upset anyone and that itwouldn't include the outfit in the show's television broadcast nextmonth, or in any marketing materials.
"We sincerely apologize as we absolutely had no intention to offend anyone," the company said.
Historically,headdresses are a symbol of respect, worn by Native American war chiefsand warriors. For Great Plains tribes, for instance, each featherplaced on a headdress has significance and had to be earned through anact of compassion or bravery. Some modern-day Native American leadershave received war bonnets in ceremonies accompanied by prayers andsongs.
"Whenyou see a Lakota chief wearing a full headdress, you know that he was avery honorable man. He was a leader. He did a lot of honorable thingsfor his people," said Michelle Spotted Elk, a Santa Cruz, Calif., womanof mixed heritage whose husband is Lakota. "It also has religioussignificance. With them, there's not a division between spirituality andtheir leadership."
Victoria's Secret model Karlie Kloss walkedonto the runway last week wearing the floor-length feathered headdress,leopard-print underwear and high heels. She also was adorned withfringes and turquoise jewelry during a segment meant to represent the 12months of the year - fireworks in July, rain gear for April and aheaddress for November.
Kloss herself posted on Twitter that she was "deeply sorry if what I wore during the VS Show offended anyone."
Thousandsof people have commented about the outfit on the company's Facebookpage. Some praised Kloss' attire as artistic and urged those offended byit to "get over it." Several expressed appreciation to Victoria'sSecret for halting its marketing of the clothing, and others reachedback in history to explain their feelings.
"We have gone throughthe atrocities to survive and ensure our way of life continues," NavajoNation spokesman Erny Zah said in an interview Monday. "Any mockery,whether it's Halloween, Victoria's Secret - they are spitting on us.They are spitting on our culture, and it's upsetting."
TheVictoria's Secret stir follows a string of similar incidents. Paul FrankIndustries Inc. and the band No Doubt ran into criticism earlier thisyear for their use of headdresses in clothing and parties, and in acowboys-and-Indians-themed video, respectively. They offered apologiesas well.
Last year, Urban Outfitters Inc. set off a firestorm ofcriticism with its line of Navajo-branded clothing and accessories -particularly underwear and a liquor flask, which the tribe said was"derogatory and scandalous."
Jennie Luna, who is Chicana andCaxcan, said society largely is ignorant toward indigenous spiritualityand doesn't understand what should not be marketed commercially. She andothers say more education about Native American cultures is needed.
"Weare people; we're not a fashion statement," Luna said. "We are peoplewho are facing serious issues, and for them to further perpetuate thetype of stereotypes and disregard for a community's way of life isunacceptable."
ReGina Zuni's advice to companies looking to marketNative American culture is to hire Native Americans who have knowledgeof tribal traditions, cultures and customs.
However, her reactionto hearing about the Victoria's Secret headdress wasn't outrage aboutthe clothing itself, but about the lack of attention on health care,education, housing and other issues in Indian Country.
"To eachhis own," said Zuni, of Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico. "But seriously, ifpeople want to grab media attention on Indian issues, this is not theissue to advance and place in the spotlight."