Beyond the aesthetic issues I have with so-called “ethnic” or “tribal” fashion, I also have ethical problems with the trend. Fashion tends to take visual cues from a whole spectrum of influences without always stopping to think what kind of attitudes or problems it may be tacitly endorsing by glorifying a particular look, and ripping off indigenously sourced materials and patterns without providing any kind of benefit to the people who created them or the culture from which they come is among the least attractive practices in modern fashion.

Fetishizing and caricaturizing cultures that have been blighted by Western influences is offensive; instead, indigenous societies deserve respect and understanding. Luckily, people like the Wayuu Taya Foundation are working to bring the trends and the cultures that produced them together in order to sate fashionable desires as well as enrich the groups whose lives have inspired the trends.

With bags like the Wayuu Taya Foundation Geometric Tote, the traditional weaving work is done by indigenous women (with this particular foundation, the focus is on the Latin American Wayuu tribe) and the proceeds go into educating the female workers on nutrition, parenting and family planning. You get your boho look, the Wayuu people get much-need social services, and you can rock the “ethnic” look (whatever that means) with the knowledge that your handbag money has helped people. Buy through ShopBop for $132.

P.S. Please consider supporting our small, bag-loving team by clicking our links before shopping or checking out at your favorite online retailers like Amazon, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, or any of the listed partners on our shop page. We truly appreciate your support!

Share Your Thoughts With Us

  • An4

    all I can think of when I see this is Vanessa
    (from Gossip Girl)

  • 19yearslater

    The fact that buying this bag actually helps the people it was inspired by is wonderful.

  • Vitta

    Good-looking, quite an original purse and a great cause! Sure beats that Stella McCartney’s crochet disaster.

  • Stylista

    Good cause, but I was never a fan of the whole tribal/ethnic look.

    http://red-soledfashionista.blogspot.com/

  • Staci

    Amanda, I like the “ethnic”/”tribal” design when it’s original and authentic.