Louis Vuitton 'Navajo' Moccasin

Hell No, They Ain't Navajo! Louis Vuitton Pulls an Urban Outfitters

September 04, 2013

Just what are you looking at in the pictures on this page?

Shoes, of course -- expensive shoes that were originally very expensive shoes, made by French accessories and luggage company Louis Vuitton. At a Louis Vuitton online outlet, you can find pairs of these shoes, originally priced at nearly $700, on sale for $199.

It's a steal, right? But Natives who've kept an eye on fashion fumbles over the past couple of years might be irked by a different kind of theft. These shoes, essentially driving shoes with the faintest of Native touches, are billed as "Navajo Moccasins." In the United States, thanks to the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, it's illegal to put the name of any tribe on a product unless it was actually made by that tribe -- a fact of commerce that Urban Outfitters learned all too well when it got into trouble over Native-ish products that included the Navajo Hipster Panty and Navajo Print Flask.

Urban Outfitters is headed to court over its unauthorized use of the Navajo brand. Louis Vuitton might need to change the names of these shoes, at least for the U.S. market, lest they end up in the same pickle. But to what extent can the Indian Arts and Crafts Act influence a French company's actions in overseas markets? As we saw with the Hopi Katsinam auction debacle, the French government had little interest in enforcing the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Can the Navajo (or Natives as a whole) do anything about how these shoes are labeled outside the U.S.?

There's one way to find out, and that's to take up the fight -- and some Natives on Facebook are doing just that.