Burning Man, High Fashion, and Commodification

Earlier this week, I was made aware of a “hip new clothing line” that debuted at this year’s Paris Fashion Week. The collection features representations of at least 26 Black Rock City works of art and six mutant vehicles. Several pieces also include derivatives of the Burning Man symbol.

As I clicked through the photos, my heart began to race. How did this happen? Did the artists give permission? How could ANYONE think this is okay? I was particularly bothered by the use of what appear to be personal messages from participants written on the Temple. Oh, that and the Hug Deli. I mean…. The Hug Deli?! Come on!

Burning Man Project did not authorize and does not condone this use of artwork from the event. Art created for Black Rock City isn’t fodder for ad campaigns or fashion designers.

I’m definitely not the only one who had a strong reaction. Hundreds of community members have expressed outrage; our friend Halcyon hosted two Facebook Live conversations (check them out here and here) and there’s a lively discussion on Reddit.

A number of us here at the organization are working hard to investigate the situation. We are:

  • Reaching out to the 26 artists and six mutant vehicle owners whose work appears in the collection to learn what kind of communication, if any, happened with the designer’s team.
  • Determining who gave permission for their work to be used, and providing resources for artists who want to advocate for their intellectual property rights.
  • Finding out what kind of feedback and guidance Manish Arora and his team received from artists, photographers, and friends in the Burning Man community.


We take the exploitation of Burning Man culture very seriously. We do our best to protect and advocate for those who gift their creativity to our community.

But there’s only so much that we can do alone. From a legal perspective, Burning Man Project has the right to prevent others from using things like the Man symbol and Burning Man name, but artists own their art (of course). Artists control copyrights to their works, which means they are the ones with the right to license or deny the creation of any reproductions or derivative works.

And if there’s one thing we can count on about Burners, it’s that we’re not all going to respond to any situation in the same way. So far we’ve learned the following:

  • Some artists gave permission for their artwork to appear in the clothing line.
  • Other artists were contacted and did not give permission, yet their work was used anyway.
  • At least one artist was not contacted but is totally okay with their art being used in this way.

For the record, Burning Man Project is totally not okay with this use of the Man symbol.

Earlier today, we sent a letter to Manish detailing our concerns and requesting the immediate removal of any pieces from the collection that incorporate any derivative of the Man or Man base, and any other pieces that incorporate the artwork of others without their permission.

This isn’t someone from the outside world exploiting Burning Man. This is an experienced Burner whose work was included in the No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man exhibition in Washington, D.C., and who seemingly failed to recognize why using these Burning Man community traditions, artworks, and mutant vehicles in his collection is wrong.

If there’s a silver lining in all of this (and I’m determined to find one!), it’s that this situation has encouraged people to talk at a deeper level about the commodification and exploitation of the Burning Man community. We’re talking about what it feels like when someone takes something central, and even sacred, to a community and uses it for what appears to be commercial gain. We’re talking about why Decommodification is core to who we are and why we find so much meaning and unconditional value in Burning Man events.

An incident like this, while deeply upsetting, provokes important conversation, and provides an opportunity to acculturate others.

We don’t have anything against people being inspired by Burning Man. In fact, we created a nonprofit organization specifically to support people bringing the spirit and ethos of Burning Man out of Black Rock City and into the wider world. But being “inspired by” is one thing. Taking the creations of others, without their permission, and suggesting they are your own without giving credit, will not be tolerated.


That’s not okay with me as a member of this community. And it’s not okay with us as an organization.

If your artwork or mutant vehicle was used in this collection, please contact us at doingitwrong@burningman.org with any info about your interactions with the designer. Thank you for standing up for the culture we love.

Burning Man culture is not for sale.

Artworks and mutant vehicles represented in the collection:

  1. The Man
  2. BELIEVE, DREAM, and LOVE by Jeff Schomberg and Laura Kimpton
  3. Embrace by Matt Schultz and the Pier Group
  4. Phoenicopterus Rex and Rainbow Bridge by Josh Zubkoff
  5. Long View, A Polar Bear Stands in the Desert by Don Kennell
  6. The Hug Deli by Michael Stubbs
  7. Pulse Portal by Davis McCarty
  8. Exchanghibition Bank by Dadara
  9. The Temple of Awareness by the Utah Builders Community
  10. The Lost Tea Party by Wreckage International
  11. Jack Champion’s Murder by Jack Champion
  12. ILUMINA by Pablo Gonzalez Vargas
  13. What If This Is All Real?, What You Seek Is Seeking You, and Everything You Need Is Inside You by Olivia Steele
  14. Becoming Human by Christian Ristow
  15. Brain Child by Michael Christian
  16. Love by Michael Benisty
  17. Ascension by Jeremy Richardson
  18. Baba Yaga’s House by Jessi Sprocket Janusee and Baba Yaga’s Book Club
  19. Medusa Madness by Reared In Steel, LLC
  20. Talk to God Phonebooth by Miles Eastman
  21. You Might Die Tomorrow by Kate Manser
  22. Inside the Mind of DaVinci by Phoenix Rising and Wrecking House
  23. (In)visible by Kirsten Berg
  24. Blumen Lumen by Foldhaus Collective
  25. Big Al by Brennan Steele
  26. Heartfullness by Katy Boynton
  27. Mary Ellen Carter Rides Again by Daniel Backmann
  28. Shark Car by Sid Kurtz
  29. Walter the VW Bus by Kirk Strawn
  30. Samba Duck by David Shields
  31. S.S. Christina by Kelly Higgins
  32. The Golden Mean by Krysten Mate and John Sarriugarte
  33. Opalessence Idaho Core Project (“The Egg”) by Idaho Burners Alliance Core Crew
  34. I Have Dust in Curious Places by Scott Kapeckas
  35. Lamplighter Robes by Steven Wright
  36. Camp Tafies Project (“Balan Sander”) by Camp Tafies

Top photo by Steven Fritz

About the author: Megan Miller

Megan Miller

Megan is an accomplished communications professional with experience in the private, public and nonprofit sectors. She’s a skilled leader, writer, editor, public speaker, and strategic adviser. Megan is passionate about the art of sharing information in creative and impactful ways, and believes in the power of ideas and authentic self-expression to change the world for the better. Before joining the year-round Burning Man staff in 2012, Megan spent ten years working for environmental protection, HIV/AIDS prevention, political campaigns, and the United States Senate. Born and raised in Juneau, Alaska, Megan earned a Bachelor’s degree in English & Art History from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec and is a 2007 graduate of the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs. She is also a certified yoga instructor who loves shaking it loose on the dance floor.

135 Comments on “Burning Man, High Fashion, and Commodification

  • Wizard says:

    So sad to think that he was “inspired” to use images, and messages from the burn without permission. Otherwise, I really like some of his pieces, but they are such a violation of the artistic integrity of the burn.

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  • Satellite Caufield says:

    Also in the images: OpalEssence Idaho Core Project (“The Egg”) by Idaho Burners Alliance Core Crew.

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  • McSparkles says:

    The “No Spectators” exhibit uses the Burning Man brand to sell exclusive event tickets and swag at the gift shop. And Daybreakers held more than one “Morning Burn” party for a profit either at, or related to, the No Spectators art exhibit. I don’t agree with what Daybreakers did. And I don’t agree with the VIP events and “the man” necklaces selling at the museum it shop. But when I raised my issues with the community, I was told that BMORG doesnt take decommodification that seriously anymore. Maybe the artist’s critique is that the .org has gone too far in picking winners and losers on who can “profit” from the Bman brand, and who cannot. I think the solution is reigning everyone in, including the org, burny for profit events like Daybreakers, etc.

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    • frosty says:

      while “No Spectators” was an awesome show, I was flabbergasted to walk into the gift shop piled high with burning man s**t to buy. i literally couldn’t stop laughing at the irony given the decommodification ethos of the original event (which has little to do with the “current” event). so this paris fashion week faux pas is just one more drop of ironic hypocrisy from those who pretend to be shocked

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      • Adel Barrett says:

        Let me begin by saying that I totally support efforts to protect artists and contributors to Burning Man whose work may have been used or imitated without their permission outside the confines of BM. But that’s not the sole angle this article is taking. I was a bit incredulous to read the sentence “We take the exploitation of Burning Man culture very seriously” given that Burning Man fashion, style, and noticeable aspects of its entire aesthetic very often imitate, appropriate and exploit other cultures, and yet I have never seen the festival issue statements speaking out about or officially discouraging that form of exploitation. Throughout this article, you could replace references to “commodified Burning Man symbols” and insert “commodified Hindu religious symbols” or “commodified tribal ceremonial wear” and make this article about exploitation of ACTUAL marginalized cultures. Burning Man as a whole is not a marginalized community. And while Burning Man is not for rich people only, it IS an event for people who can afford it, and who should be mindful of subverting the symbols and garb of marginalized people for artistic expression. This thought may be a bit ancillary given the article’s focus on the artists – I fully support paying and crediting artists where it is due – but I just find the angle of protecting Burning Man culture a little laughable given that it sources so much of its aesthetic from other cultures. This indignation should apply to a position against exploitation and imitation of ALL cultures, globally. Personally, I find that more important.

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      • Pierrot Activatus says:

        Personally, I don’t consider cultures with nuclear arms and a modern-day history of committing ethnic cleansing to be particularly worthy of the “marginalized” label. I agree with the headdress thing, but Om symbols, Shiva statues and crucifixes are equally fair game in my eyes.

        Also, Burning Man as an organization, or as a movement, or whichever way we look at it, is not responsible for the actions of each burner.

        BTW the other article on the topic does address the question you brought up.

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    • Sammy-kaykes says:

      THANK YOU! this is exactly what I was thinking. It’s not about ‘permission’ it’s about the mindset. To decomidify is to be , not partial.

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  • Dusty Bottoms says:

    To me this is just another thing piled onto this mess of entitled sh**s taking advantage of the beautiful event we’ve created over the years. It’s draining my love for the event I found many years ago, but not enough to stop me from helping create so much of what I love. The plug and plays, the celebrities coming and launching products using our backdrop, the influx of the edc crowd that just view it as a party to get fu**ed up at, and now this. I am so happy with the org this off season in trying to combat these stains on our history. I hope this continues and we can get back to a bigger realization of what the event is all about. Keep it up, educate the misinformed, and maybe we can get back to a sense of what it used to be when people actually covered their uhauls trucks so they weren’t inadvertently advertising. As much as I’d hate to deny people from coming, I think the event never should have exceeded ~40-50k participants and would love to see it go back down.

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  • frosty says:

    how ironic…shock at the how BM has become commodified.

    after BMORG has for years turned a blind eye to plug&play camps that cater a fabricated experience to the ultra rich, and allowed an army of service providers to stock and clean and empty and cater to the RV crowds of “bucket list” attendees…..NOW there is shock that BM is commodified?!?!

    ha-ha….that horse left the stable years ago, and BMORG were the ones that opened the gate.

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  • HoneyB says:

    Just pointing out that Burning Man dress and culture uses other culture’s art and symbology all the time. So….it’s not OK to be exploited, but it is OK to exploit?? the Org needs to become more serious about working with its own cultural commodification (i.e. tribal headdresses, etc). All the white people with indigenous tattoos and dreds might need to look at their own cultural exploitation.

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  • redBone says:

    Now just wait a minute Frosty! Those high roller burners “donate” to the BORG! It’s like dark money man. They are part of the “accepted, elitist burners” who help keep everything funded and allow us lowly Sherpa types to return year after year. They can’t cut them off now, the $$$ flow might dry up! How will they be able to expand Fly Ranch into the future without those donations? Oh the Humanity… or should I say HUMAN-O-TY!

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    • Charles says:

      Hi redBone,

      I’m curious, do you have any evidence of any of your claims? Or is this all from some “feelings” or “well, you just KNOW” kinds of sentiments?

      Either produce something substantive, or stay out of the way of those of us trying to have an actual conversation here.

      There is nothing less interesting than unsubstantiated trolls stirring shit in an actual do-ocracy of people trying to protect and create a legitimate and necessary, and imperfect, culture.

      I fail to see how your allegations create anything for anyone. If you actually have anything more than your trolling, I’m wiling to be wrong though.

      Thank you,


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  • Kenn Kushner says:

    As a participant in both the “No Spectators “ show and someone with work in the gift shop I can say that a lot if considerations were given to what was allowed to be sold. I talked to and presented my work to people within the BMorg to make sure I did not cross the line. As an artist and designer whose work and style sometimes runs close to the BM aesthetic it is often confusing. I have been using imagery that looks like it may be derivative but it was in my design lexicon before BM even existed. I am very sensitive to making sure that I do not use BM specific iconography for commercial purposes. That being said, I make my living as an artist and designer, and I happen to also be a burner.

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    • LadyBee says:

      THank you , Kenn. Several burners who make and gift jewelry at our event had NON-BURNING MAN jewelry in the Renwick gift shop – nothing at all referenced Burning Man. We saw this as a great opportunity for them to show their other (non-BMan) work. Several books about Burning Man were there too – is that commodification? I think not. The pricey water containers with “No Spectators – The Art of Burning Man” printed on them were unfortunate, but the Renwick makes these for each of their exhibits and we don’t have control over that.

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    • Jean aka Traveller says:

      Fair point Kenn and thanks for telling things as they are; too many people commenting form the outside :)

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  • Witchy says:

    Clearly the Lamplighters are well represented in this show, as well.

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  • GP says:

    Also featured: Lamplighter robes!

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  • Prefer Anon for This says:

    What about the rumours that BMORG staff were at the runways show and not only approved of the looks but were enthusiastic?

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  • BobC says:

    When you make a deal with the Devil, you are going to get burned once he runs with it on his own….the Genie is out of the bottle and it ain’t going back in.

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    • vbsanta says:

      When someone other than the BMORG makes money from BM, they are suddenly concerned. It IS ok for them to squeeze every dollar they can from attendees by creating more and more ‘fees’ for things that were formally FREE.

      Report comment

  • Sugar Day says:

    Is there any art represented that we can’t see? Say like on the back side of the garments? Anything that was not in the photographs or do we know for sure that this is a full list. Thanks.

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    • Arvid says:

      Theres more shots of the temple garment on instsa. One zoom clearly shows the phrase “be excellent to each other”

      Yes. You read that correctly. This is to be the object of our seething outrage. A Bill and Teds quote.

      It is disappointing but perhaps not surprising that the Millenial Identity Cultural Purity Outrage Zeitgeist would begin to infect burn culture. I feel like we can do better but maybe it was inevitable.

      Thought policing artistic expression based on memories and experiences on the playa would be so much easier if we had mind wipe technology. Departing BRC? Zap. Memories gone. Like it never happened. Decommodification problem solved. Perhaps someday. A guy can dream, right?

      Dramatic Sigh.

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      • Spanky says:

        Arvid Said “Thought policing artistic expression based on memories and experiences on the playa would be so much easier if we had mind wipe technology. Departing BRC? Zap. Memories gone. Like it never happened. Decommodification problem solved. Perhaps someday. A guy can dream, right?”

        As an 11 year Burner I have taken a camera to BRC, but left it in my tent mostly, and only took pics in camp of close friends, as I really feel that the memories I have in my head and heart are so much more precious to me than those taken and plastered all over. The memories will always be there. Too much technology and money has spoiled what was an intimate, challenging and divine experience.

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  • K says:

    The dress covered with Temple writings should be burned.

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  • Roboter says:

    Speaking of potential mixed signals our community has gotten mixed signals for use of the words “burning man”, being allowed in the name of fundraisers. Once very it is allowed, meanwhile another group is told it’s not. What would the line be that seperates okay from not okay for use of burning man in an event title?

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  • A Pissed Off burner says:

    Hi folks. Your treasurer was there. Don’t play ignorant. She posted it on social media, and was there specifically in support of Manish Arora, per hashtags. You knew this was happening. You had to have known it happened prior to it blowing up.

    You’ve enabled this. Don’t post crocodile tears like this. YOU HAVE ENABLED THIS BY ALLOWING THE TURNKEYS TO GROW ON K STREET.

    Report comment

  • emes says:

    You’re missing several very specific art pieces. If that is actual writings from the temple or some other pieces.. each and every single one of those writings are copyright by their creators.

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  • Buena Chica says:

    THANK YOU Meghan Miller for a timely word from the Org. and for the actual list of all the individual art work that was abused by this selfish Burner artist……. may he truly extend an apology to the entire community as OUR collective SPiRiT was violated as well!!! )'(

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  • Chinook says:

    YES! Communication! Intelligent dialogue! In Dust We Trust.

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  • Robin says:

    Publicly listing the names of the art that was used feels a bit like a 1950’s black list. Contacting the artists privately would seem more appropriate. Those artists that gave permission for their artwork to appear in the clothing line… what’s the issue? It’s their art. They can do what they choose with it after the event. The event did not create it, the artist did. If they want it to appear in a fashion show that’s their freedom of expression.

    As I understand it a few years back (2010?) the organization made it so people had to share ownership of their photos and videos with the organization (this was before they transitioned to being a non-profit.) This kind of censoring of artists feels very similar. Art belongs to the artist not Burning Man.

    Now if any artist (or quotes from the temple) were used without permission (and ideally compensation)… that’s entirely a different case. And it seems to be the case for some of the projects listed. But why list the name of the artists other than public shaming? It’s kind of gross and far removed from radical inclusion and radical self-expression.

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    • Wizard says:

      I think they posted the list for two reasons:

      1. To show just how egregious he was in appropriating images from the burn. If they hadn’t posted the nearly 30 names, would people understand that this wasn’t a one-off thing?

      2. As outreach to the organizations involved. Camp leadership (and contact information) often changes year to year, and the BMORG may not be able to contact some of the groups listed. They may be hoping that people reach out to them.

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    • Kirsten Berg says:

      My work was used without my knowing it. I was never contacted by the designer or his team asking for permission to use imagery of my work. I would never have agreed to have any of it reproduced for a fashion line (let alone have him bedazzle it!)
      Since he’s publicly used my art to promote his brand, I appreciate that the actual creators are acknowledged here, as well as the title (it is a relevant feature of the piece)

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  • Chinook says:

    Thank -you Megan.

    As I started to read the article, my heart also began to race…Perhaps my intimate messages intended for the sky have been posterized on the runway? To what end? Fame? Recognition? Adoration? Followers?

    Time to burn some things.
    I will begin with my expectations.

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  • Jonty says:

    Copy cat traitors….banned, all of them!!!

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  • Burning marcel says:

    I think some work from Solipmission (2017) by Dadara was also used on the clothes ?

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  • John Smith says:

    Burning man fashion is all about stealing ideas. Cultural appropriation IS what burner fashion is all about.

    White privilege is not being able to see this.

    Would be nice to have the org say something about feather headdresses.

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  • KreveTTe says:

    Well..well.. maybe it is I arrived in this community from the Punk / free parties path more than the elitist «arty» one… but I thought – even more within the burn values – that we had switched to an open world when a success is assessed by the frequency, a good idea is re-used instead of how much money it would worth but maybe i am just too much ahead, sorry…

    I also consider the gift «for good» for what i do. I gift my time and would consider as a principle breach from myself to ask for money afterwards.

    Hovewer this guy went really too far this time and i understand the émotion.

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  • James says:

    Also in the images (right one) : Camp Tafies Project (“Balan Sander”) by Camp Tafies.

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  • Shannon says:

    Larry isn’t around anymore. Do we still need to pretend to obey his 10 Principles? It’s time to evolve past that. Burning Man is a growing, evolving organism and shouldn’t be defined by one man’s experience of ‘wisdom’ after snorting an entire 8 Ball of cocaine back in 2004. We need to grow.

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    • Pooh says:

      “We should do something new” is exactly the thought Larry had when he decided to burn the man on the beach. If you want something different than Burning Man, you should start something different than Burning Man. When Burning Man stops blowing minds and changing lives it should change. We aren’t there yet. Just like the country is the constitution, Burning Man IS the principles.

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      • frosty says:

        you bring up a good point….how valid is our constitution written over 250 years ago by a bunch of slave-owning white men? given Trump used our constitution’s allocation of electoral college vote to become our first porn-star twice bangin’ president with a minority of the popular vote, it seems maybe our constitution *is* due for a re-do. now….what were we discussing….

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  • WantsAnswersPlease says:

    Could the ORG please explain why Treasurer Jennifer Raiser was at the fashion show? There is photographic evidence that she was there. Seems quite shady that the ORG would be condemning this clothing line on this here post, yet attending the show mere days before. What gives?

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  • M0dle T says:

    For the crowd calling out hypocritical cultural appropriation by BM I think you may have missed the point if only slightly. If someone were to make a line of clothing based strongly on what could be considered things the BM community as a whole all wear out there THAT would be appropriation, and all we could do is comment on it and decide to either like it or not. What Manish has done is different, he has used actual artworks by specific people against their permission and made a casual spectacle of someone’s grief, and cathartic writings as well as direct copyright infringement in the case of the BM logos.

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  • ANGRY says:


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  • JustABurner says:

    Its so easy for people to jump into conclusions to think the designer has evil intentions and doing all for money. I have met the designer on the playa and he is nothing but an amazing human being. He has definitely made a mistake here using Burning Man art for his clothing pieces, I know for sure he cares about Burning Man culture as much as others do. Maybe he wanted to show his world what Burning Man is about and wants everyone to experience what the playa has to provide and why is it such a big part of his life (not the right way to do it). Everyone makes mistakes, let him realize he made a mistake here and embrace it. I understand communication is important so that people understand why is it inappropriate to commodify Burning Man and its culture. We got to educate more people to be aware of this and but we dont have to spread hate.

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    • AreYouKidding says:

      Which would all be fine and good if he hadn’t taken however much time he did to design and produce this ready-to-wear line, and when the runway show happened was no doubt preparing to manufacture a purchasable product. This wasn’t a little “oopsie” that can be brushed off with the benefit of the doubt — there was much planning and work and may steps and stages involved, and to think that at no step the thought crossed his mind (or someone told him) that what he was doing might not be okay….is ludicrous.

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      • YoYoYo says:

        There’s also no way he hasn’t heard about the upset and read all the backlash by now (especially if the ORG has contacted him as they purport to have done) — so why does his website say nothing about his “mistake,” or have an apology posted, or anything. Uh huh.

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  • AreYouKidding says:

    Also, reiterating another’s comment above:

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  • Jana says:

    Could we get a response from the BMorg on why a board member was at the show?

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  • Vladimir says:

    Not cool at all. I am glad to see the position of BMorg on this matter. I knew the designer was cozy with the organization, demonstrated with the fact that he was in DC representing Burning Man fashion. For him to come out with a collection that was so disrespectful for the work of other artists and the private messages left at the temple was an outrage.

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  • David says:

    I find myself having really mixed feelings about this. On one hand this show is clearly using other artists work without their permission. On the other hand though all art is theft. It’s hard to walk around Burning Man and not run into entire camps based on ripping off other artists work without their permission. Costco, Best Butts, Planned Playahood, the Enterprise shuttle, etc, etc. While I don’t really like what this designer has done I am not sure I have the moral standing to critique another artists work given how much my own theme camp’s designs are clearly rip offs of others work.

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    • Gene says:

      There are exceptions to copyright law called fair use.. Parody / Humor are the most common and in these instances generally nobody is making a profit (such asthe examples you listed).. This is not fair use as it is direct depictions of the art without modification and are for-profit..

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      • David Singer says:

        Yeah. I am familiar with copyright law. I don’t think it’s a great judge of moral right and wrong though. I also think the part about making money is a littler blurrier. Theme camps take in money. Often less than it costs to run the camp but for many of us we would do it anyhow. If I build a $10k theme camp and people give me $9k have I made $9 or lost $1k. Tough to know. It’s also unclear to me (I have not been following this super closely) if he is selling those items or not.

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  • Green Man says:

    Human tribes have adopted what might be called fashion trends from each other for hundreds of years. To define any given thing as having an absolute origin for a specific culture and then for use to therefore be considered cultural appropriation is absolute BS. Radical self expression demands that burners have the freedom to borrow anything from anywhere and know that imitation truly is the greatest form of flattery. Burning Man is a dynamic multifaceted culture requiring a high degree of participation and inclusiveness. Let us show respect for those that sow seeds of creativity and share it all!

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  • Leroy says:

    The part I find most disturbing is the taking of writings from the temple. That is messed up. Those people did not give permission for their hope or pain to be brought back from the fire to live for ever on some Instagram model.

    Report comment

    • Shpilkus says:

      I could not agree more. Those personal words and thoughts are what makes the Temple so sacred and having some trash monkey put it on display on clothing is a complete disgrace.

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  • Jenine says:

    So, I work in fashion education and I have been a burner for 18 years. Fashion Designers (stupidly) follow trends that trend forecasting agencies predict. About a year ago a trend forecaster from France came to the school where I teach and did a presentation on trend forecasting and mentioned one trend coming up is “Tribe”. The images he showed were 50% pictures from Burning Man. I WAS LIVID. I couldn’t make a stink about it because I could have gotten fired but I did ask how “in-depth” they are in their research and if they contact the cultures they used. He said they just use the images purely for the visual. I had hoped that designers would not take this forecasting literally but I guess some noob had to go and use it. Who do I contact so the ORG can send a stop and desist letter to these trend forecasting companies?

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  • KarmaChameleon says:

    First of all I think we should stop being so extremist and binary in our judgement and allow for nuance and healthy discussion. I am seeing so much hatred everywhere about this, including people threatening Manish with death threats and burning him when they see him on the playa next. I hope our community can rise over extremely divisive twitter style binary conversations over someone’s behavior i.e. someone did XYZ, then someone must be THE WORST person on the planet and must be stoned to death. I only see this playing out everywhere right now: This fashion designer violated decommodification? Must be a 1%er asshole who doesn’t know burning man is, came to the playa once, lives in plug and play camps, and deserves to die or be banned from burning man. WHAT? We are better than this. And most importantly, having known Manish over the past 3 burns, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

    I can tell you from my experience that he is one of most loving, kind and generous people you will ever meet. He embodies burning man and the burning man spirit in every aspect of his life: radically self expressive, radically inclusive, always gifting, always leaving no trace and picking up moop, and always present and participating. He doesn’t camp in those 1% plug and play camps as far as I know and as a lover of fashion, he brings his best to the playa every year influencing people and playa culture beyond just the playa. His outfits and his presence have touched and inspired so many people like me and helped me become more self expressive and confident in my love of ridiculousness. He is the one of the pieces of art on the playa, that I look forward to seeing every year and that stays with me for life. 

    I honestly don’t know anyone who loves burning man more than him, and I can see how his extreme love for burning man led to this show where he wanted to pay an homage to through his own artistic talent which is fashion. Think about this: As a brown, gay man he was able to make it to Paris Fashion week for the past 10 years to the point where France has basically knighted him for his cultural contributions. He has been one of the champions at the forefront of fighting for gay rights. For a lot of us Indians he is basically a hero who did the impossible. And then I met him on the playa and realized he is also a burner to the core and the most ridiculously sweet and kind human I had met. Now to see him being vilified to the point of receiving death threats from a community that is supposed to be radically inclusive is so heart breaking to me. He made a mistake, we should ask for his perspective before publicly tearing him down to pieces.

When I saw this collection first I was so thrilled, YAAAY more boundaries being pushed, more ridiculous extraordinary pieces, more burning man ethos in the world! The collection overall was so well crafted and brilliant with collaborations various other designers who come to burning man. Most of whom seemed to be present at the show too. So I thought everything looked clear. It seems like they tried to get permission from artists to use their work too? But maybe not all of them? I didn’t interpret the robe as temple writings initially when I saw the whole collection, because I only saw a couple of positive messages stand out, so it never struck me as odd. Could even be writings from other art installations because people write over other art pieces that burn? But now after reading all of these discussions I can understand the violation of culture. But also an Indian, I’m used to getting my culture appropriated so much especially at burning man(it is literally a party inspired from Indian traditions but in a completely different context), that maybe I am almost desensitized to it. On a closer look, the writings also seem to be made up since I only see positive messages and not personal ones? I’m not sure. But makes my heart break to see people threatening to beat him up, and making all these false assumptions about him because he is the exact opposite of the person you guys are burning in your heads.


It is an EXTREMELY important to have this discussion though. Decommodification is the hardest of the principles to implement. The word is so new that literally doesn’t even pass standard spell check. What is ok? What is not? How should we act when we see violations? How can the guilty correct and redeem themselves?

    As a photographer who’s main art AND source of money, or product is PHOTOS, isn’t taking photos of the playa and art pieces also commodification? I have seen a million photographers taking pictures of the playa and using that on their pages to showcase their art. Aren’t there so many photographers making money selling burning man photo books? There are videographers who get Youtube ad money from putting up burning man videos. Simpsons, Malcolm in the middle, South Park all have full episodes on burning man, which is literally commodification. 

I think the org and our community should guide everyone on where the line should be drawn, understand that decommodification is hard, and help people with guidance to navigate it, continuously providing examples and guiding people who violate it with kindness rather than put them up for a public social media trial like this, enabling everyone to act with hatred and anger like this.

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    • frosty says:

      it seems as TTITD evolves that “radical self-reliance” is the hardest principle to implement. BM wouldn’t be such a sell-out event for the ultra-rich, “bucket list-ers”, and tourists if folks had to REALLY figure out how to spend a week on the playa. BMORG has diluted the meaning of self-reliance so much that BM has truly become just a “festival” like the others, so i find it hard to take outrage at all the other principles being ignored as well.

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  • Kukuforcoco says:

    BMORG SEcretary Jennifer Raiser IE (cococabana) was at the FASHION SHOW. Looking happier then ever, hopefully she can ‘Raiser’ some more money for herself and the BMORG elites by pretending to play dumb. Couldn’t help but use the play on words.

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  • Joshua says:

    THANK YOU Meghan Miller.

    To the hack job wannabe impressionists… and appropriating culture vampires….you just don’t fucking get it. Your Chinese made yoga pants with our sacred temple offerings are as invalid and lifeless as your understanding of our community. Taking photo copies, extracting textures, and lifting textiles from this special time/space – this one universe striving for authenticity and real human connection – and capitalizing them for profit, just makes you another forgettable blip on a bizarre overinflated, self infatuated fashion shit show.

    Fuck your MC Hammer pants and temple dresses…
    Without our cultural refference they would just be another $5 pair of paints or $12 dress. Go ahead then. Turn the one good thing, into another fucking Ross Dress for Less bargain bin special. It’s all for sale! Profit profit profit. It’s all for sale folks. The ringmasters dead. Fire sale!

    Zone trip 4 motherfuckers. Know your history.
    Stop selling everything and MAKE shit just to make it.
    First person I see wearing this shit’s getting a mouthful.
    Skull fuck your burn.

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  • Smitty says:

    Want to get excited about exploitation? Let’s talk about how many volunteer hours go towards the success of the event vs how much say volunteers get in how things are run and how money is spent. Let’s discuss how a $45+ million budget manages to spend less than 5% on art grants while turning down tons of proposals each year. I’m amazed at how burner outrage culture consistently picks stupid outlier problems to work themselves into a frenzy over while turning a blind eye to all the deep structural problems. “That person is wearing a feather headdress!!!! Kill him!!!”

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    • Smitty says:

      Did a little more research just for fun: The combined salaries of the top 10 employees of burning man is higher than the amount of money paid out in art grants each year. But yeah, let’s get worked up about a paris couture fashion show… sigh.

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      • Justin Lange says:

        Smitty, by begrudging that only 5% of the BM budget is allocated to art grants, essentially what you’re saying is that you don’t think there’s enough art at burning man.

        …and while I’m not saying there’s no room for improvement, it seems to me the BMORG is doing a pretty kick-ass job at placing and funding art on the playa.

        If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

        Letting folks commodify our funeral rituals and print private messages to dead loved ones on cheap tshirts or skirts… well, yeah, I’m damn glad they are enforcing the legal rights of BMORG and the participants.

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      • Smitty says:

        I guess we have different concepts of “exploitation”.

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  • Lilly Rose says:

    Well what about these camps doing so called “fundraising parties” all over the world and using the BM culture to make money. How many fundraisers do they do a year. Have you looked into this. That’s even worse than what this Manish dude did. Sick of seeing Kazbah and others constantly promoting so called fundraiser parties.

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  • Jewel says:

    I’ve spent time with Manish on and off the playa and have been to Burning Man nearly ten years straight. He doesn’t do things to make money but to express his love. As someone who knows him I believe this collection is his expression of his love for Burning Man, the thing he loves most in the world. If he wanted to make money off fashion believe me he would not be designing Burning Man inspired fashion. These looks are not commercial money makers. I thought Burning Man was about compassion, self-expression, and connection and it’s crazy to see so many people quick to judge his intentions without actually knowing and understanding him.

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    • Sparks says:

      If Manish, or yourself can’t understand why someone might be pissed to see their lovingly writen words pop back up out of context on someone’s clothing at a later date then y’all completely do NOT understand what makes this event work. I dont give a fuck if you have been once or every year ever, if you cant see the violation in that action then you have completely lost the plot.

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  • Love the dude says:

    Manish is probably one of the nicest, most opened minded person I’ve ever met in my life. I’ve done one burn with him (and kept in touch since then) and all he did was basically sharing his love with anyone he’d run into. This is a dude who has come up to burning man for inspiration and to give back. Don’t see anything bad with his line of work.

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  • LongView says:

    I’ve written on the Temple wood. I would pass thru during the week and see my scrawl surrounded by others. Soon, I’d watch as my and their words were ignited and became ash/smoke/carbon dioxide. If my words later appeared on clothing, those same words would eventually end up in a landfill, burned, or attempted to be archived, but eventually, my words would transmute into different matter. And I might be dead by that time, and ashes to ashes…dust to dust..one of the truisms we all know and believe in but even in this thread, seem to forget and instead, be in shock or anger…

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  • Kunal says:

    I’m lucky enough to have gotten to know Manish personally. And as a long time burner, he embodies so much of what I love about BM. BM is a part of him and he’s an artist… I think it’s impossible for his art not to encapsulate his BM experience. If we are to judge him for that, that reflects on us more than it reflects on him.

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  • Tony B. says:

    Just a thought- take it where you want. I’m sure there are 100 relevant directions.
    I went out to the BRC airport for a plane ride in 2006. The guy who’d offered the ride didn’t actually know me (cool all the way around, BTW) but we’d arranged to meet at a time and place. It was sunrise. I showed up in a pair of simple khaki pants, a light earth tone sweater, and a pair of gym shoes. He was wearing something pretty similar.
    He looked me up and down and smiled:
    DP: “You work here, don’t you?”
    Self: “What makes you say that?”
    DP: “You look comfortable.”

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the fun & dress to entertain on occasion, but I never dressed to impress. The fashion thing seems to be an extension of that. The fact that there is a such thing as “Burning Man Fashion” kind of gives that away, doesn’t it?

    I find it all a bit shrugable.

    I remember someone complaining about someone being elite: “She’s wearing a $1000 pair of boots on the playa, I’d be embarrassed to wear $1000 boots on the playa!”

    I can’t recall if I said it out loud (my mouth leaks sometimes) or if I just thought it:
    “I’d be embarrassed if I could recognize a $1000 pair of boots.”

    I think that perhaps we’ve got a culture that tries to identify and impress, which is some shade of elitism. And if we didn’t have that, perhaps we would not find the event being the ‘topic’ of fashion.

    Maybe that has a loose connection to the subject at hand for more folks than me, or maybe it doesn’t. But hey, give it a thought and see what conclusions you come to.

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  • Lightswitch says:

    Walter is a purse.

    Side note : I’d totally carry a Walter purse.

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  • Melissa Alexander (foam) says:

    Hmm, The images of Manish’s clothes look like drawings of the playa to me from that picture anyway. In other words, another artist’s illustrative. interpretation of the BRC landscape. I note that there are thousands of photographs by professional photographers of the same or similar scenes. Some of those are for sale, others are given away but I’ve often gone to the photographers sites and noted them on their sites thus being used to advertise the photographers skills. I also agree with what others have said here. When we clean our own house of our racial discrimination and cultural appropriation, or at least begin as a community to have very intentional conversations about this I’ll feel better about pointing my fingers at the brown designer who seems to be making a tribute when I note hundreds of white photographers have been sharing pictures. We should be thoughtful and kind. But also remember that no matter our intention- homage or exploitation, we cannot count on our intentions being read the way we want and the larger culture has become one of throwing shade on others so no one will notice our complicity.

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  • Jamie says:

    Black people should not be (or meant to feel) excluded from this event. This subtle racism has been going on for too long.

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  • Jennifer Quigley says:

    Burning Man is created by us the participants. Rather than ask what is Bmorg going to do about the changes in our culture, what are we going to do? I regularly talk to people wearing outfits representing other cultures. I don’t wear those types of costumes. It’s not allowed in the camps I have participated in and formed. Not allowed because cultural appropriation is not radical self expression. If there is upset then we must have a dialogue and change it.. I’m going to engage more when I am home again I encourage everyone to do so as well.

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  • Jane says:

    Racists! Everywhere in these comments! And misogynists. This is disgusting.

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  • Wrecking House says:

    As the lead representative Of Wrecking House, the only thing I’m sad about is that they didn’t send me any swag, my gift to the playa was actually a gift to the world and I’m glad that someone was able to use our imagery to create something beautiful and to adorn the greatest creation of all, people.

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  • Rachel says:

    I am DEEPLY concerned about this essentially Doxxing of a gay, brown artist by the org. This artist is getting nasty and threatening messages directed at him on social media because of this post. This seems like a really irresponsible and hateful way to disagree with someone’s art. To have the mouthpiece of an organization use their voice in this way is a grave error. This man did not rape, assault or murder anyone. He made some dresses. This could have been a teachable moment – instead, it’s a hate-fest. Shame on you.

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    • Autumn says:

      It was Paris Fashion Week. He doxxed himself.

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      • Truth says:

        Jesus, Autumn. The ridiculous outrage around this whole situation speaks volumes about the whole entitled, privleged BMORG. Y’all need to get your asses out of your Alabama Street super ego self-congratulatory, hyper-sensitive ‘Burning Man is sooooo important’ mindset/bubble. Fucking circle jerk cult.


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    • Dusty John says:

      First off.. Look up DOXXING… unless his name address and phone number are someone, it’s not DOXXING… As for shaming, he’s a 6 year burner.. not some newbie.. he should know the deal at this point, and if he doesn’t, he deserves the shaming for sheer stupidity… and what happens to the first person who fucks up this bad will influence others in their willingness to do the same.. When we all see an apology from him, i’m sure there will be some forgiveness, but for now, he gets what he gets..

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  • YankeeDelta says:

    But isn’t all our culture a commodity? Don’t you buy most of your stuff from amazon and Walmart ? Forcing our ideology on the default world is where we cross the border and hand the baton to fanatics!

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  • Sammy-kaykes says:

    Thankyou for this article. Let’s please look inside at this (no disrespect to the writer however): at the end of this article the writers history OUTSIDE of burning man context is given..as if a plug to this person, a credit kind of an advertisement. Folks need to see this as also commodification. It’s a mentality not an action. It’s needed to change for YEARS, I’ve BEEN saying this and taking heat for my comments. I’m not hating onfolks I’m asking US to look in the mirror. Decommodification means just that with everything. NO advertising, or sales of anything burningman other than tickets to the event and ice at the event (stop selling coffee at the cafe! This is not Starbucks). As so done who helped big a big ass well known camp ages ago, I can say it’s very easy to get lost in who even if we are not ‘those type of folks’. Gotta pay attention or it runs away with you, and turns into this. Decommodification is a MINDSET not a single action. Permission granted by the artists it not is NOT ok to SELL and ADVERTISE art on the playa. It even bothered me when I saw the art in other events (Coachella etc). I know the art is expensive and it’s tempting to be able to pay for it by commodifying it outside of the actual burn. However this was a dangerous slope that can mold a mindset into turning a blind eye as to what commodifying something is or isn’t. That said, the big art is expensive and has needed subsidy. So is that part of commodification ok? IDK this is a real question we need to address. What type of commodification keeps the sacred origin of BM’s creation and what goes over the line. Personally I know fashion is co Sider Ed art and yet simultaneously it’s one of the biggest parts of a consumer culture and at the base of so much else that I personally go to the playa to leave behind. So, perhaps even though we (I) hate rules, we have been needing to educate on those fine lines between what will keep it within its roots and what behavior has introduced and fed a mindset to come to ,THIS (fashion show, fashion line). I see it as an abomination (not the designs but the action and the mindset that this is ok). I’m sure these folks are kind and caring but somehow never really got it when it comes to actual decommodification. That is not new. This has been going on. And I brought up ego (not to put anyone down) and crediting the writer at the end of this article as an example of where this mindset begins. Credit the writer within the burningman realm..we don’t need her education credentials or any of that on playa (which on playa should continue out if the desert but with things within the community that end in ‘burningman.org’ . It’s a plug, an advertisement for the writer outside of the BM world. Again no offense but THIS is the mentality overall that needs to shift in order for folks to KNOW it’s not ok to SELL burningman. Disclaimer (in closing) this is not to offend nor hate on folks I love what the writer wrote. Things have needed to be addressed for close to 2 decades within the burningman mindset. That have been neglected leading to ‘this’. Let’s please hope it’s not too late to fix.
    Bullet points of some of the things to address:
    – no Sherpas, no plugNplay camps (no exceptions)
    Perhaps bigger isn’t better when it comes to ‘showy’ art on the playa. CK the mindset behind why it’s being built and make sure it’s for the love of experience on playa not as an advertisement to the artist when off playa.
    – none of theses situations: person pays for most of the camp, therefore as a ‘reward’ , said person shows up on playa to see their fancy playa home built for them, decorated for them and some other ‘perks’ as a reward. This isn’t a Kickstarter this mentality is slippery slope
    – no reward for effort. Meaning a reward is like a payment when it’s an expectation of something physical/tangible as reward for an action. “Gifting mentality, not bartering mentality”
    – burningman is not for sale (or is it?)

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  • Texture says:

    Having gotten a chance to know Manish through Burning Man, I can attest to the fact that his deep admiration and respect for the BM culture and experience has shaped his art over the years. As an artist, you reflect the things that inspire you the most. It is surprising to see the harsh tone and sentiments coming through from a community that is meant to promote inclusion and respect – I would hope for a more evolved conversation.

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  • InaVanWijk says:

    Are we really surprised when Marian Goodell’s decommodification model looks more like Duh-Commodify-It! each and every year.

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  • Cindy Bunny says:

    There’s nothing wrong with making money off of the event. Larry Harvey was senile when he wrote the 10 Commandments. Back in 96 people were making bank on the BRC black market. You don’t think that still continues? Self-righteous pricks!

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  • Hallelujah says:


    Make it a private event of 70,000 people.

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  • Ben says:

    I am finding the rage against one person who is tried to show Burning Man culture through his art & illustrations on fabric /garments ( NOT PHOTOGRAPHS) simply absurd.

    I am certain that drawings /patches on the clothes are a form of his expression based on the experiences he would have gathered over the period of several years he has been a burner & designer for many more years.( Would be surprised if any artist comes home from BM without any influence )

    Are the officials from the organisation suggesting to hang this extremely talented designer for showcasing the world BM culture thu clothes ?

    This activist for LGBTQ community from India deserves an applause and some respect especially from fellow burners .

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  • Anisha bahl says:

    I’ve known Manish for over 25 years now… he is all heart … every time he has gone to burning man he has come back with so much love, happiness & energy … charged & ready to take on the world for another year … literally counting the days for the next edition … it’s the love he felt at burning man that he wanted to share with the world ….now he is getting very nasty & abusive emails….some want to see him burn … physical harm really!!! So much hate coming from a community that professes love & sharing …he has not murdered or harmed anyone physically …really disappointed in the way this issue is being handled … talk about commercialisation what about the chartered flights that arrive direct to burning man with the worlds richest people being served 4 course meals by chefs flown down specially…..super luxury air conditioned tents & private bathrooms ….for a festival that promotes self reliance …that’s strange …burning man has become a ‘cool’ thing to do now … one on the bucket list ….what about the photographers that sell photos taken there ….the festival
    Is live on you tube … so now it’s convenient to ignore some principles & not some…where is the love?

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    • John Martins says:

      He’s been a burner for 6 years… he used the art of over 30 artists, many without permission.. He had the balls to use BM Org’s image of the man without permission.. with BM Org people present no less, causing what was most likely a major embarassment for them.. . He placed temple writings on lamplighter robes.. and even if they weren’t directly from the temple, he tacitly gave permission for every other asshat to do so… People will look at what happened here and perhaps think twice about doing what he did.. Unless he issues a heartfelt apology to the community, I hope his burns get shit on for the rest of forever…

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    • Who here hates Andy Warhol? says:

      It is very unfortunate that people are attacking him personally. I don’t think you get to rage about violating the principals by violating more principals.
      Putting the principals of Burning Man aside for now which are more of a code of conduct and not really law, there is the legal issue of stolen art forms. This is not a new issue. The art world has been dealing with this for years. To what extent is this art derivative? A really good example of a similar case is Andy Warhol. The guy constantly used others’ art as inspiration and incorporated their art into his. In some cases, he was sued and lost, in others he settled with them for money, and in others he won (Campbell Soup). Because there were so many artists in this print, and style, and accessories, there are cases that are cut and dry illegal such creating an almost exact replica of someone else’s art and passing it off as your own, even if as a handbag…and other cases such as a drawing of someone’s car or statue that may be more ambiguous. Either way, the community wishes to support artists who want to stand up for themselves, and should also be respectful of the fact that this issue is not new to the art world and fashion designer had good intentions.

      The saddest part to me, is that this was such an incredible show and it could have totally stood on it’s own without the “temple garments” and the exact copies or depictions of the playa or others’ art. The correct response from the artist would be to offer these unneeded pieces up for a ritual sacrifice to be burned in 2019, and to not accept any orders for these items. Where does it say that you cannot violate the 10 principals and then try and correct it? May the Burner who has NEVER accidentally dropped MOOP throw the first stone…

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  • Jamal says:

    What has he stuck his fingers into? It’s nice the BMorg features a few black men on their blog from time-to-time, but it’s a bit strange that his cigarette isn’t lit, but he has time to play with money. This seems racist to me. And sexist.

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  • Manav says:

    Burning man is what defines Manish! As a regular burner he draws inspiration in everything he does through this journey in the dessert. He spends the entire year planning for the event and the months after sharing his experience from the playa. His work has always reflected the burning man ethos. He celebrates his work with his fellow burners and always shares his creations with others. Let’s not hate for the wrong reasons, this person loves burning man and everything that it stands for!

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  • SinglePly says:

    The on playa fashion models have always grossed me out. Very visible people who show-off how they do not get it. As a ninety-nine percenter it’s hard for me to imagine Manish Arora making much cash off of his high priced, ugly junk. In order to solve this latest decommodification crisis I propose the creation of the Playa Fashion Critics. An elite and highly trained fashion force that would identify offensively dressed one percenter “models”, put them in baggy orange jump suits and escort them on a runway out of the Gate. What’s on the catwalk? Fake fashion. SAD!

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    • Steve says:

      99 percenters don’t get laid very often. I feel for you, son. No wonder you hate the fashion models, because you’ll never have sex with one of them. Get a real job and maybe you’ll get laid once in the next 10 years.

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  • CheckYourself says:

    You conveniently forget that fashion is ART. The most personal form or art there is.

    You only specifically hate on ads and fashion. Why is fashion the only art included here I wonder? Because you don’t see fashion as art. To break it down for you fashion is the biggest vehicle of artistic self expression. One of your core principles.

    All this when you allow so many glorified “ART” installations on the playa that are literally just neon signs for people to Instagram against, which is the most clever way of marketing: every picture against it will add followers for the artist on Instagram. Wake up. The neon signs are literally ads. Something that the artist directly profits from.

    Your post includes your writing outside. That’s an AD.

    The BM Instagram account: guess what that is? An ad too.

    Halcyon started this outrage, and his latest post on Instagram has him wearing the trademarked Burning man logo on a T-shirt promoting some products. What is that? An ad!

    Wake up and stop acting all “holier than thou” check your own privilege org members. You are all appropriators and violators of your own principles in culture police clothing.

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    • Sofia says:

      Fashion is a craft. If craft was art, art would be a meaningless term; my sofa is art… my chair is art… my hair is art. Everything I do is art because I’m an artist. My shit is art because I made it.

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  • Adrian says:

    Law was right. No trademarks should have been sought. Make Burning Man ubiquitious, like the smiley face. Take ALL the money out. Give up control. It never works.

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  • Monkey Mind says:

    Fashion is a commodity

    Collaborations are between two willing participants

    Artworks created by artists need to be given their due for recognition and compensation when terms have been discussed prior to usage

    Being a warm happy person does not automatically give you the right to do what you feel like without facing the consequences

    Just because you love something so much does not give you the right to violate its principles

    Because you know the organisers well does not give you the right to breach the ethos of the organisation

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  • ZOLTORGAN says:

    Burning man, a simple minded circus for morons willingly pay big coin for this childishness.

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  • Liya Iva says:

    Also the pink faux fur coat with a unicorn horn is a copy of my camps outfits! We are Invisible Pink Unicorns camp and we group-hug random people on the playa during sunrise, wearing our fluffy pink coats with a unicorn horn. I guess we hugged Manish Arora too, but now I would rather take it back…

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  • temple run says:

    The information you share is very good and useful to me and many others. It is closely related to my work and helped me grow.

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