Examining the American brand Faherty today – with its Aboriginal-led “Indigenous Initiatives” – paints a relatively hermetic picture.
But the road to inclusion has been marred by cultural hiccups.
Prior to co-founding Faherty with her husband Alex and taking on the role of Impact Officer, Kerry Docherty was a lawyer with a background in human rights. She never really thought [she] would have a job in retail, ”but says Faherty is not the average retailer.
And reconciliation far beyond a calendar signal like Indigenous Peoples Month (November in the US) is one of the reasons why. “I always like to lead with what we’ve done wrong,” Docherty said. “The fashion industry is not always able to say ‘ownership’.
The brand – reminiscent of the American Southwest with its rustic flair and focus on comfort – initially used native textiles “as inspiration for our clothing,” in Docherty’s words.
She got to the heart of the brand’s faux pas: “Saying that art honors the community without benefiting it is a bit like throwing a birthday party and saying, ‘You’re not invited. .
That was three and a half years ago.
The time since has been a turning point for Faherty as the brand has shifted from its noxious and effusive language from “native inspired” to “native designed” by entrenching partnership, learning and reciprocity, according to Docherty. . Indigenous designers and artists like Bethany Yellowtail (who is Northern Cheyenne / Crow), Doug Good Feather (Lakota) and Steven Paul Judd (Kiowa-Choctaw) now represent the front-fold of talent.
“When I think of activism and climate change, the indigenous community has always been the gatekeeper and led the way and protected what is most in need of protection. Much of what we do highlights people who already have the knowledge, ”Docherty said, stressing the importance of the land return movement, or the just return of land to indigenous peoples.
While today only 5-10% of Faherty’s assortment is Indigenous in design, each artist determines their involvement. Docherty argued that it “depends on the designer and what works for him”, stressing this reciprocity within the framework of “a decolonized partnership and listening to the designer”.
Inclusion is more than a moment, a campaign or a document.
While the brand’s continued partnership has enabled the Lakota Way Healing Center (founded by Good Feather) to purchase more than 220 acres of land to expand Indigenous spiritual practices and help Yellowtail move to new offices, Docherty said. : “I always like to reiterate this Faherty does not help the aboriginal community – it changes the way of thinking.
In view of future stewardship, Faherty has created an internship program that prioritizes Aboriginal youth. Within the Brand Impact Team, two Indigenous employees help guide the company’s evolving mission, and Docherty’s friend and IllumiNative Founder and CEO, Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee), HQ on the board of directors of the company. IllumiNative is an Indigenous and women-led social justice organization that is one of Faherty’s partners.
Mark the paths forward
The brand has made strides in inclusion that represent more than just a marketing push.
“Faherty is a great example of where they’ve been incredibly receptive to criticism and reworked the way they operate as a business. They made room for indigenous people in their business, ”Leah Salgado (Pascua Yaqui), impact manager at IllumiNative, told WWD. “They don’t just authorize a design or a model, [they’re] ensure that the product that is sold has a strong connection to the community. She reiterated that “you can’t have a ‘native inspired’ design. [as opposed to ‘native-designed,’ where Native artists have a stake in design direction] and be genuine in any way.
But the needs for inclusive working methods cannot be met by a single brand.
“When we think of fashion, for a lot of people, this is where we see shifts and shifts in popular culture,” said Salgado. “Fashion has not always been nice, disagreed with, or recognized aboriginal people. “
Salgado pointed out that this year’s Met Gala was a major misstep on Indigenous inclusion. “You can’t think of American fashion without thinking of natives,” she continued. “The Met Gala is a great example. There was an indigenous model [Quannah Chasinghorse] who was on the carpet, and there was a native designer [Korina Emmerich] in the exhibition – but there was no native [representation]. “
By creating space for accountability and reconciliation, fashion can find deliberate pathways forward as long as ESG measures don’t just engage the Indigenous community after the fact. “When it comes to people who do [ESG] the reports, not including Indigenous people, only talk about this erasure, ”said Salgado. “It is becoming a norm to leave us out of the conversations that impact our communities. “
Moving towards a more just and equitable society, Salgado reiterated that: “It is not about having an indigenous person on their board of directors, but they have work that they offer and ways to go. follow for the fashion industry.
On the other hand, Salgado said, “It’s also up to consumers to ask the right questions. “