Interweave Knits Summer 2018 Lookbook
Artists are inspired by beauty, whether it is from their own culture or another. Since Paleolithic humans began painting on cave walls, people have been influenced by the various cultures that compose the human race. The lines between cultures are often blurred in this nebulous composition of humanity, and navigating where cultural appreciation stops and appropriation begins can be uncertain.
Cultural appropriation (often referred to as cultural misappropriation) occurs when a person assumes aspects of a culture that is not their own.1 More specifically, it occurs when a person of an oppressive culture assumes aspects of a systemically oppressed minority culture for entertainment and capital gain.2 The act of cultural appropriation (e.g., donning another culture’s symbols and dress without understanding their meaning) does more than just disrespect the exploited culture3; it both erases and oppresses by “normalizing” minority cultural practices into mainstream white culture. The deeper consequence of appropriation is that the original, and often sacred, practices of the exploited culture are either lost or obscured.
As artists, how do we appreciate aspects of other cultures in our art without appropriating? Again, the line is blurry, and I’m not sure a simple answer to this question exists. But for me, combating cultural appropriation begins with self-awareness and respect. I am a white middle-class woman from New York who has always been drawn to the cultures, art, architecture, and textiles of the American Southwest. That region of the United States has been home to the Navajo, Apache, Pueblo, Hopi, Pima, Yuma, and Zuni nations (to name a few) as well as Spanish settlers and, later on, Anglo-Saxon pioneers, and each culture has influenced what we now refer to as “Southwestern culture.” Taking into account the horrific atrocities inflicted on the indigenous peoples of that area, which resulted in our modern cultural blend, I paused before going forward with the theme for this issue, despite my personal respect for its origins. How could I honor the traditions and cultures of the peoples native to the Southwest without crossing the line from appreciation to appropriation?
With this awareness at the forefront of my mind, I challenged our designers to draw inspiration from the American Southwest while being mindful and respectful of the origins of that inspiration. They rose to the challenge beautifully by presenting modern, appealing, knittable designs that capture the multifaceted spirit of the American Southwest. Flip to our Trading Post Trail story and find all-season garments and accessories inspired by the textiles, history, architecture, and art of the Southwest.
Find breezy, lacy, bohemian-inspired garments and shawls wearable in the blazing summer sun in our High Desert Lace story. See that each project has a short description of its inspiration, as well as the usual construction details. Read about the Navajo weavers that helped build the Brown Sheep Company and how that symbiotic relationship still exists today. And take a look at our Fiber Review for cool fiber blends made for summer knitting and our Maker’s Tools for products and notions to inspire all makers.
I hope we got it as close to right as we could, but we are human, and therefore imperfect. I’m proud of and humbled by the dedication and sensitivity each contributor and Knits team member poured into this issue—Interweave Knits Summer 2018: The Southwest Issue. Embrace your creativity with mindfulness, passion, and purpose.
1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_appropriation ↩
2 https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/cultural-appropriation-wrong/ ↩
3 For example, in 2012 the Navajo Nation sued Urban Outfitters for branding clothing lines with their tribal name and aesthetic for mainstream appeal. ↩
Get the full issue and get your summer knitting queue going!