FARMINGTON — Navajo turquoise and jewelry never went out of style here, but now everyone else wants them too.

In a trend that has carried over since last year, commercial designers are enlisting the age-old patterns of the nation's largest tribe to sell some of their most popular products among them backpacks, moccasins and sweaters.

During the year's most raging shopping season, the items can be found at almost any fashion store. Target, Walmart, and various shops at the mall feature the products, many of them incorporating bright, neon threads and hip, vintage details.

Yet, in an area where the Navajo culture is alive, are the items selling as well as they are elsewhere?

They certainly are selling, even to American Indians.

"It just kind of seems tacky," said Shaniel Chavez, a Piedra Vista High School senior who said she doesn't buy Navajo-style clothing.

She does see other students wearing it, she said.

Chavez, who is half-Navajo, is not offended by the trend and guesses that it's only in style because youth see all the celebrities wearing it.

For the past year, stars have been making apologies to American Indians for using their designs and for using those designs in derogatory ways.

Most recently, model Karlie Kloss apologized for wearing a feather headdress and American Indian accessories, such as the Navajo-style turquoise jewelry, during a scantily clad walk on the runway for the Victoria's Secret televised fashion show.


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"I am deeply sorry if what I wore during the VS Show offended anyone. I support VS's decision to remove the outfit from the broadcast," Kloss wrote Nov. 11 on Twitter.

The show will be broadcast Dec. 4, though not with Kloss's American Indian outfit in it. Victoria's Secret also apologized.

A week later, ska-pop band No Doubt had to pull its music video in early November for its song "So Hot." The music video, no longer available online, featured lead singer Gwen Stefani as an Indian princess taken by cowboys.

Last year, Urban Outfitters was at the center of a lawsuit after the Navajo Nation found out that its fashion line incorporated underwear named the Navajo Panty, and also a flask. Both were decorated in Navajo designs, though neither flattered the tribe.

The tribe was so offended, it sued the company.

Though, the tribe is not opposed to all uses of Navajo-inspired patterns and design.

"Any mimicking of our culture could be offensive," said Erny Zah, spokesman for the Office of the President of the Navajo Nation. "But the flip side is ... we're a global network now. There's an opportunity for our people to capitalize on this trend right now."

While artisans spend years learning the skills weaving, silversmithing, or sewing to create their products, they could use this wave of pop culture to send their own products further.

If anything, many Native Americans now are "riding the coattails" of the pop culture wave, and promoting their own homemade crafts.

"I'm getting into the turquoise stuff," said Megan Johnson, who was shopping at the mall Friday. "I like the authentic stuff, though."

Like Johnson, many locals are embracing a little bit of the authentic, local goods that they have been surrounded by for decades. They also have made room for some of the new, more contemporary goods.

At PacSun, just one of the popular chain clothing stores at the Animas Valley Mall in Farmington, an elderly Navajo woman walked into the store Friday and purchased one of the Southwest style coats for sale.

"It sells really well, especially to the Native Americans," said Alex Johnson, assistant manager of the store.

Johnson sees the revival of American Indian wear as a repeat of the 1970s when hippies embraced the style as a way to feel closer to nature.

"We were talking about this last week," Johnson said. "Basically, (my manager) said fashion repeats itself every 30 years."

Regardless of the trends for the year, or for the holidays, the availability of genuine, handmade American Indian crafts likely will not disappear in the region. 

"People like the idea that this is made in someone's home not a factory," said Kent Morrow, owner of the Shiprock Trading Co. in Farmington. "We think there's something really special about a handmade piece."

While most "knock offs" are made overseas in Guatemala, the Philippines, China, to name a few places pieces made in the Southwest often are made from products from the Southwest.

Even then, buyers have to be careful. The prices for authentic goods can be several hundred dollars more than the artificial, but way cheaper alternative.

"For a lot of people, it is a lot about cost," said Morrow.

While many artisans have stuck to high quality resources, others have moved toward less expensive resources so they can decrease their cost, and the buyer's as well.

"For many artists, this is their livelihood," Morrow said. "It's not something they're going to get rich off, but it's enough to make a living off of."