May 17, 2017
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Chanel 'boomerang' causes social media stir

May 17, 2017

Chanel's latest accessory, a model version of the boomerang -- a cultural symbol of Indigenous Australians, has caused a stir on social media worldwide, with internet users accusing the French maison of cultural appropriation.

The luxury Paris house currently sells the Chanel-branded boomerang -- made from wood and black resin -- for A$1,930. It sits under “other accessories” and is part of Chanel's latest spring-summer 2017 pre-collection.

A shot of the post by beauty vlogger and makeup artist Jeffree Star - Instagram/@jeffreeStar

On Monday, US makeup artist and social media sensation ​Jeffree Star brought the Chanel Boomerang to a wider audience, some 4.7 million Instagram followers to be exact, when the beauty vlogger posted a picture of himself holding the boomerang -- on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.

"Having so much fun with my new #Chanel boomerang,” he commented, with a black heart emoji symbol. 

The picture soon attracted much scrutiny from Indigenous Australians, non-Indigenous Australians and other internet users from around the world, accusing Chanel of profiting from cultural misuse and insensitivity.

"This is a cultural symbol of indigenous Australians, for a high end fashion brand to create reproductions and profit off something culturally significant that doesn't belong to them is disgusting," wrote Instagram user @american.b3auty.

Nayuka Gorrie, a writer and activist, tweeted: “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 via @chanel.”

Local media outlets were soon reporting on the social media outrage, which continued online throughout Monday and Tuesday. Fairfax Media ran the headline 'Chanel regrets 'some may have felt offended' at new $1900 boomerang' while the Guardian Australia published a piece Chanel's $2,000 boomerang criticised for 'humiliating' Indigenous Australian culture.'

On speaking with the Guardian Australia, Gorrie said the item was “so wrong it is almost absurd”, considering Indigenous Australians were the most disadvantaged people in Australia and had to fight to preserve their cultures.

“Having a luxury brand swoop in, appropriate, sell our technologies and profit from our cultures for an absurd amount of money is ridiculous and hurtful. If Chanel truly want to respect Aboriginal cultures, the first place they should start is discontinue this product and issue an apology. Perhaps the next step would be supporting existing black designers.”

In response, the French house has submitted a statement. "Chanel is extremely committed to respecting all cultures, and regrets that some may have felt offended," a company spokesperson said.

Chanel has indeed been selling and showcasing boomerangs since 2006 when they were on display at a Hong Kong boutique for a "sport exhibition", under the design direction of Karl Lagerfeld.

Unlike the boomerang, the “other accessories” available from Chanel's spring-summer 2017 pre-collection have flown under the radar: a set of three tennis balls ($570), a racket ($2,220) and a set of beach paddles and balls ($4,860), all stamped the statement Chanel back-to-back Cs.

As of midday Wednesday (local Sydney time), Star's Chanel boomerang Instagram post had received 5,920 comments and more than 170,000 likes.

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