French high fashion brand Chanel has come under fire for appropriating Aboriginal culture by selling a boomerang that retails for almost $2,000.
The black “wood and resin” boomerang — priced at $1,930 — is one of several items available in the “other accessories” line of Chanel’s recently-launched 2017 spring-summer pre-collection.
The collection also includes a $2,220 tennis racquet, $4,860 set of beach racquets and balls and a “price available on request” paddle board.
The boomerang came to prominence on social media when American make-up artist and vlogger Jeffree Star posted photos of the item — which he is presumed to own.
Social media users have ridiculed the whole collection as exorbitantly priced, but the boomerang has come under particular condemnation for appropriating Indigenous Australian culture.
One user wrote: “Cultural appropriation hits a new low — I sincerely hope that Chanel is donating all the profits to underprivileged Aboriginal communities.”
Writer and activist Nayuka Gorrie wrote: “Have decided to save for the next three years so I can connect with my culture via Chanel.”
The National Museum of Australia describes boomerangs as playing “an important role in Aboriginal culture as objects of work and leisure”, but following the arrival of Europeans in Australia they became popular as a souvenir by the late 19th century.
Since then cheap imitations have flooded the market, but there has been a recent push to better protect local creators.
Tweet by @zzoeeseymour: “@JeffreeStar, rather than paying $2000AUD for a Chanel Boomerang you should look into investing in one one made by an Aboriginal Australian.”
Chanel ‘regrets some may have been offended’
Professor of Intellectual Property and Innovation at the Queensland University of Technology, Matthew Rimmer, said the controversy highlighted the need for law reform.
“The legal system has only partially responded to the problem,” Professor Rimmer said.
“Landmark copyright litigation was brought in the 1990s over rip-offs and copycats of Indigenous art … but further reform is needed.
“At an international level, more should be done to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in respect of Indigenous intellectual property.”
He added: “As a good corporate citizen, Chanel should apologise fully, withdraw the boomerang from sale, and make appropriate reparations to Australian Indigenous communities.”
Chanel released a statement saying the brand “is extremely committed to respecting all cultures and regrets that some may have felt offended”.
The boomerang is still available on the Chanel website.
It is not the first time Chanel has produced boomerangs, with a silver monogrammed version recently sold on luxury second-hand website TheRealReal for $295.