Indians in Paris

American Retro store on Rue Madame

American Retro store on Rue Madame

I didn’t see it at first.

American Retro begged for a second glance when I noticed the storefront decor was laced with geometric Indian designs.

Exterior windows painted with golden arrows were reminiscent of a Pendleton blanket. Could be Southwest. Could be Midwest. Maybe Osage. Hopi. Potawatomi.

In truth, the design just looks pan-Indian, a homogenous mix.

The arrow constellation reflects itself, opening like a bivalve, a symmetry of sunburst.

Problem is the gold paint: authentic North American art typically shuns gold patina.

The headless mannequins stare out the window dressed in blacks and grays and whites, just like all the stores on Rue Madame. No Indians on display.

I was relieved to be spared the faux Indian dummies after having spent the month of November channeling my ancestors’ sensibilities. In deference to Native American Heritage Month I wrote every blog through an indigenous lens.

The Parisian storefront reminds me that, at least for one designer, American retro stands for American Indian.

[Photo of the American Retro store on Rue Madame snapped by the author, December 2012]


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in american indian, authenticity, Indian, native american, Native Science and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Indians in Paris

  1. Russ L says:


    That’s what I notice around the U.S. as well. Specific tribal art is copied and becomes homogenized “Indianish” art (sold by non-Indians) to appeal to a wider clientele. Symbolism dissolves into abstraction and what one is left with is something pretty in a vaguely familiar way, but meaningless.


    • My guess is that the window artist copied the design from something she or he had seen in a book or image. We went into one of the department stores to get a sense of French culture–it was actually very cool–and found a western embellishment on a few items of men’s wear–a pendelton blanket on display, for example. Lots of women on the street wore boots and I saw more than one pair with an Indian-like pattern on sheepskin. But I’m sure I was the only person wearing turquoise from North America.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s