White woman scorned for selling $74 hair bonnet: 'Are they gonna steal everything black women invented?'

Elise Solé
Sarah Marantz Lindenberg, the founder of NiteCap, is accused of profiting from a headwrap historically worn by black women. (Photo: NiteCapCo.com)

A white entrepreneur selling expensive hair wraps is being accused of appropriating a “trend” worn by black women during slavery and beyond.

Fashion Magazine’s interview with Sarah Marantz Lindenberg, the Toronto founder of NiteCap, which sells silk headscarves, directed attention to the product, which protects women’s hair and reduces acne by keeping oily strands away from the face during sleep or daily activities.

“My concept came out of a problem that needed solving,” said Lindenberg, the mother of twin girls and the director of marketing at clothing brand Pink Tartan. “I was preparing for my wedding and, like a lot of brides, wanted everything to be perfect.”

She was experiencing breakouts and had limited time to wash her long hair, and a doctor suggested she wear silk scarves. And although her hair looked better and her skin cleared up, she couldn’t find the perfect fit. “...It inspired me to create something of my own,” she explained, adding that generally, “the practice has been around a long time.”

Lindenberg says she interviewed women who wear head wraps, including those with short or thinning hair and those with extensions and weaves, ahead of her $74 product (it sells for $98 in Canada).

Michael Harriott, a writer for The Root, took Lindenberg to task online. “What she ‘created’ was basically a version of the same head wrap that has been included in the late-night booty-call kit invented in 1906 by inventor Madame CJ Walker’s less successful sister, LaKeisha Walker,” he wrote. “To be fair, the difference between Lindenberg’s bonnet and the one worn by Erykah Badu, India.Arie and 92.8 percent of the women who have ever been on a ‘natural hair journey’ is that Lindenberg sells her bonnets for $98, which is a—Wait…that can’t be right. Let me double-check that price. There’s no way someone is paying a whole Benjamin for a bonnet. That would be just…Oh, I forgot...white people.”

And social media said Lindenberg took credit for a style that, according to VICE, was legally forced upon African-American women in the 1700s to signify their “slave class.” Today, many black women wear head wraps to upkeep their natural hairstyles, according to NBC News.

A representative for Fashion Magazine did not respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment. An editor’s note appeared in the story that read, “...Though not strictly used just for sleeping, the item has a long history in black hair culture.”

Lindenberg tells Yahoo Lifestyle in a statement, “...Nowhere does it suggest that I invented the sleep bonnet,” pointing to passages in the Fashion Magazine story that mentioned the historical practice, Lindenberg’s admittance that similar products were already on the market, and her research process that included interviews with women who wore head wraps.

On Tuesday, NiteCap posted a statement on Instagram: “...A small business grew quickly, but in the process, I failed to connect it back to the broader historical context. We stand with those who are hurt, and we respect and hear their voices. We’re committing to honoring the historical significance of hair wrapping and this will now be part of our approach.”

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