Q:we're studying your works in art class and I just got back from Art Mûr gallery to check out your work , very creative , I love it ! Keep rockin'
Ha, thanks! Glad you enjoyed the work. :)
Inukt’s head designer: Just. Doesn’t. Get. It.
You can see her response to the backlash here.
Dear Mrs. Benarroch
Greetings, my name is Sonny Assu. You may have read and heard my remarks about your “humble” fashion line over this past week. So I feel it apt that I write a response to your letter today.
Let me start off by saying how appalled I am that you choose not to learn from this experience. Oh, what’s that? You say you have? Mrs. Benarroch, nothing written in your opinion piece has indicated that you have learned from this experience. You come off as egocentric and reeking of white-privilege. You clearly don’t know why what you did was wrong and you are completely unwilling to learn from this.
Natalie, if I may call you Natalie, you just don’t get it. You are letting your ego get in the way of listening to the people you have offended. And that makes me sad. Not really. Feel sorry for you? No, not that… I don’t know how I feel. I guess I’m too busy trying to make sure I’m not caught eating a baguette. But heck, my wife is French, so I guess it’s ok. I know a couple of Italian people too, so my espresso and pasta lunch is ok to consume. I’m being facetious, but thanks for trivializing the issues, by the way.
Growth would be listening to the critiques that have been made against your work and learning from them. Honestly, how can an artist (and for the sake of argument, I will grant you, a “fashionista” the title of an artist. Out of what ounce of respect I have for a fellow artist, it is the least I can do.) not be open to critique? It is how we grow and develop. How we strengthen our message, our work or our fashion. In my opinion anyway. I’ve been at this, professionally, for 12 years with a moderate amount of success, so I feel pretty ok with floating that opinion out there.
So here is what I assume, you place yourself in a position of authority because you lived in a major fashion hub for 20 years. So I would assume that you would have been critiqued before. Unless I’ve just made an ass out of me and you’ve shat gold for the past twenty years. That was harsh, I’ll offer up another non-apology. Anyway, this all goes to say that you’ve offended the people you have pretended to honour. And let me offer up another critique, maybe I can get an “a-men” from some Canadian fashion designers… what a slap in the face to suggest that Canadian fashion lacks high-couture. So what exactly is high couture about your work? How is a made in China plastic doll high-fashion? How is exploiting people that have been exploited for centuries “high-fashion”? I get it, you’ve given it some “edge”. Pink leather, cool sounding names, Warholesque images of non-Canadian Indigenous people. Sorry, that’s not edge, that’s a tourist attraction. What you’ve made is no different that what you can get in any tourist shop in the Old Port, in Vancouver’s Gastown or in any Canadian city. So it begs the question, why not use the “Canadian” identity from those shops? My Indigenous identity is NOT the Canadian identity. That identity in the tourist traps that was prevalent twenty years ago. It’s a horribly outdated stereotype that, unfortunately won’t stop anytime soon.
Natalie, I ask of you, was there nothing inspirational in your own Canadian identity? I guess Maple syrup, Bonhomme Carnaval and flannel is good fashion does not make.
Anyway, Natalie, sure, you can be inspired by MY culture. You can be inspired by any culture you choose. But you are in no way what so ever to claim authority on it. And there are a plethora of reasons why, but for the sake of a word count, I won’t get into it. It is those within that specific indigenous culture who have the authority over our imagery. So, yes, you don’t have to be French to eat a baguette, but the baguette wasn’t oppressed and brought to near extinction.
And therein lies the rub. You are positioning yourself in a place of authority where you have none. Sure, 20 years ago you could probably have gotten away with this, but now, with hundreds, if not thousands of fully accomplished artists, crafts people and fashion designers of First Nations decent, it is OUR time to step up and show the world who we are. And that isn’t to say we’d be opposed to working in COLLABORATION with someone like you (well, maybe not anymore). But the key term would be collaboration. No longer is the day when a person of white privilege can appropriate without criticism. I guess you must have missed the conundrum that was the Paul Frank fiasco this summer. You’ve heard of him, right. Fashion designer, a bit of a big deal. His brand appropriated Native American imagery and shit went south. He listened to the criticism, learned from it and set his ego aside. How did he learn? He apologized and approached the communities to ask how he could work with the people in collaboration. Successfully, I might add.
But as I read your works, I just don’t see that growth you speak of. I don’t see you learning from this experience. I just see your ego and your privilege, and for that, I am truly sorry.
You had the opportunity to make this right. But you chose not to. And I understand why. You are a creator and you just want people to like what you do. Natalie, we were willing to work with you, but only if you had been able to set your ego aside to listen to us.
My latest series.
I sat down with Amanda McCuaig over at Art threat to talk about my work.
So I sent Crystal one of these
The Awesome email I received.
Dear Mr. Sonny Assu,
My name is Crystal and I am in the Studio Art class at Pecatonica High School in Pecatonica Illinois. It’s ok if you don’t know where that’s at. Most people don’t. Pecatonica is a dinky little town in Northern Illinois. If you look at the Wisconsin/Illinois border, we’re right smack-dab in the middle. Well, you probably don’t really care about where Pecatonica is and that’s not really why I’m writing this letter. I am writing to see if you would like to help with a project that my Studio class is doing. We have to collect signatures from famous artists and I chose you. So, I was wondering if you could send me your autograph.
I think it is really really awesome how you take a brand name or something like that and change it to mean something. I always have loved art like that. It completely intrigues me and it makes me smile. It truly would be an honor to receive your autograph.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and I look forward to hearing back from you.