PARIS — French fashion label Chanel has been accused of appropriating Indigenous Australian culture by selling a £1,130 boomerang.
The item — part of the Chanel spring-summer 2017 collection and priced at $1,325 for US buyers — sparked a heated debate on social media.
“Cultural appropriation hits a new low – I sincerely hope that @Chanel is donating all the profits to underprivileged aboriginal communities,” wrote one Twitter user.
The firm said it “deeply regrets that some may have felt offended”.
American beauty vlogger and make-up artist Jeffree Star drew widespread attention to the boomerang, which is made of wood and resin, when he posted about it on social media on Monday.
Starr said he was “having so much fun” with one.
But thousands of comments were posted in response – many of them negative.
Nayuka Gorrie, an activist, wrote on Twitter: “When I think about Aboriginal culture, I think @Chanel.
“Have decided to save for the next three years so I can connect with my culture.”
Nathan Sentance, an Indigenous project officer at the Australian Museum, told The Guardian in Australia that at A$1,930, the boomerang cost almost 10% of the average annual income of Indigenous Australians.
And Kaylah Truth, a Brisbane rapper who describes herself as a Gurang / Ngugi woman wrote on Twitter: “That Chanel boomerang better be able to return even after knocking me a kangaroo and Chanel CEO for lunch.”
However, some suggested that the controversy was ill-founded. “There’s nothing worse in the world?” asked one Twitter user. “Kids are raped & murdered every day & a BOOMERANG is important to u?”
Another tweeted: “Its a boomerang man.. chill.”
Some social media posts pointed out that other retail outlets sell boomerangs as toys — including Australian tourist shops.
In a statement, Chanel told CNN: “Chanel is extremely committed to respecting all cultures, and deeply regrets that some may have felt offended.
“The inspiration was taken from leisure activities from other parts of the world, and it was not our intention to disrespect the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and their significance to the boomerang as a cultural object. As such, this object was included into a sportswear range.”
The statement added that “sportswear has always been part of Chanel’s identity” and “the spring-summer 17 collection boomerang is part of this long-standing approach”
The boomerang remained available for purchase on the Chanel website on Tuesday.