H&M stores across Canada have pulled faux feather headdresses from their shelves after receiving complaints the items are offensive to aboriginals.
Kim Wheeler, an Ojibwa-Mohawk from Winnipeg, said she first saw the $15 fashion accessories while shopping with her daughter last week at the store in Vancouver’s Pacific Centre mall.
“My first instinct was to buy all of them and throw them in the garbage,” said Wheeler. “It’s not honouring us. It’s not flattering us. It’s making a mockery of our culture.
“We just don’t think it’s cool.”
The 44-year-old woman, a media relations worker and former employee of The Canadian Press, quickly realized she wasn’t prepared to spend that much money to make a point that might not be heard.
Instead, she fired off an email to the company.
“Headdresses are worn by chiefs in some of our communities … It is a symbol of respect and honour and should not be for sale as some sort of cute accessory. It is not honourable nor flattering.
“People in my community have kind of been fighting that whole ‘hipster headdressing’ for awhile now.”
Emily Scarlett, a Toronto-based spokeswoman for the Swedish fashion chain, said the hair pieces — patterned head bands with bright pink and purple flowers — were part of the company’s summer music festival collection called “H&M Loves Music.”
Flowered wreaths in honour of the sixties were also part of the line.
“Music festivals these days are really about experimenting with fashion and dressing your personality. And they’re very heavily based on accessories, really accessorizing your look.”
She said the company received three complaints about the headdresses and quickly made the decision to remove them from the market. An order to pull the items went out Tuesday to its 62 Canadian locations.
Scarlett later confirmed 126 headdresses were available from only five of its stores.
“Of course we never want to offend anybody or come off as insensitive,” she said. “We’re always about being there for our customers.”
Scarlett added that she is not aware of any complaints about the headdresses at H&M stores in other countries and can’t comment on whether they may also pull the accessories.
“The decision to remove the item in Canada was based on feedback from Canadian customers.”