Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Headdress use sparks apology

Victoria's Secret offends natives

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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Victoria's Secret has apologized for putting an aboriginal headdress on a model for its annual fashion show, after the outfit was criticized as a display of ignorance toward tribal culture and history.

The company responded to the complaints over the weekend by saying it was sorry to have upset anyone and it wouldn't include the outfit in the show's television broadcast next month or in any marketing materials.

"We sincerely apologize, as we absolutely had no intention to offend anyone," the company said. Victoria's Secret opened its first Winnipeg store at Polo Park this month.

Headdresses are a symbol of respect worn by native chiefs and warriors.

"When you see a Lakota chief wearing a full headdress, you know that he was a very honourable man. He was a leader. He did a lot of honourable things for his people," said Michelle Spotted Elk, a Santa Cruz, Calif., woman of mixed heritage whose husband is Lakota. "It also has religious significance. With them, there's not a division between spirituality and their leadership."

Victoria's Secret model Karlie Kloss walked onto the runway last week wearing the floor-length feathered headdress, leopard-print underwear and high heels. She also was adorned with fringe and turquoise jewelry during a segment meant to represent the 12 months of the year -- fireworks in July, rain gear for April and a headdress for November.

Kloss herself posted on Twitter she was "deeply sorry if what I wore during the VS Show offended anyone."

Thousands of people commented about the outfit on the company's Facebook page. Some praised Kloss' attire as artistic and urged those offended by it to "get over it." Some expressed appreciation to Victoria's Secret for halting its marketing of the clothing, and others reached back in history to explain their feelings.

"We have gone through the atrocities to survive and ensure our way of life continues," Navajo spokesman Erny Zah said 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."

Earlier this year, Paul Frank Industries Inc. and the band No Doubt ran into criticism for their use of headdresses in clothing and parties. They offered apologies as well.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 14, 2012 B5

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