Mexico has accused international fashion brands Zara, Anthropologie and Patowl of cultural appropriation, claiming that they used patterns from indigenous groups in their designs without any benefit to the communities.
The Ministry of Culture said in a statement that he had sent letters signed by the Minister of Culture, Alejandra Frausto, to the three companies, asking each of them for a “public explanation on what basis it could privatize collective property.”
The ministry said the companies had been inspired by designs created in the southwestern state of Oaxaca and called for benefits to be given to the communities that support them.
Zara, which is owned by the world’s largest clothing retailer Inditex, is accused of using a distinctive pattern from the Mixtec indigenous community of San Juan Colorado in creating a mint-colored midi dress with green embroidery.
The Ministry of Culture affirmed that the design “reflects ancestral symbols related to the environment, history and worldview of the community” and was similar to the traditional huipil dresses that she said were part of the women’s identity and that local artisans took at least a month to make.
Inditex said in a statement sent to Reuters: “The design in question was in no way intentionally borrowed or influenced by the art of the Mixtec people of Mexico.”
The ministry also alleged that URBN-owned Anthropologie had copied an embroidery design developed by the Mixe community of Santa María Tlahuitoltepec in the production of its light blue shorts with raw hem, decorated with purple and mint embroidery. The patterns supposedly copied in this embroidery “are a manifestation of identity, history and relationship with the environment,” he said.
He also claimed that Patowl had copied a pattern from the Zapotec community in San Antonino Castillo Velasco for his floral blouses, which are adorned with lace and delicate embroidery. The government claimed the handmade floral embroidery copied intricate community do me if you can “Do me if you can” technique.
URBN and Patowl did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.
The extent to which fashion designers have benefited from incorporating cultural designs without acknowledging their origins or fairly compensating communities has been a point of contention in recent years.
The problem is particularly important in Mexico, where hundreds of years of Western brands copying indigenous designs, often produced by poverty-stricken communities, and reselling them as “boho chic” for hundreds or even thousands of pounds have recently been amplified by the public accusations and shame on social networks.
Frausto issued a statement last fall saying Mexico would no longer tolerate the cultural appropriation of local designs without due credit, according to the fashion trade title WWD.
This action, which according to the ministry was taken to shed light on issues such as “protecting the rights of indigenous peoples who have historically been invisible,” is the most recent example.
In February, the Instituto de Artesanos de Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, accused Australian clothing brand Zimmermann, worn by high-profile admirers such as Kendall Jenner and the Duchess of Cambridge, of plagiarizing the Mazatec community for its resort collection. 2021.
Zimmermann claimed the mistake was unintentional, but withdrew the item from sale. “We apologize for the use without proper credit to cultural owners of this form of dress and for the offense this has caused,” he said in an Instagram post.
Intellectual property attorney Joaquín Elizalde told WWD at the time that companies were unlikely to stop appropriating Mexican design without a review of intellectual property law. “The procedures are long and expensive and many of these communities simply cannot afford them,” he said.
The French designer Isabel Marant offered him “sincere apologies“In November after the Ministry of Culture of Mexico accused her of copying a pattern created by the Purépecha community.
Marant was charged with copying another mexican design in 2015, and admitted that she was “inspired by” the Mixe indigenous community. That became part of her defense when she was sued by another French brand, Antik Batik, who accused her of copying her design in creating the blouse.
The court ruled in favor of Marant, saying that Antik Batik could not claim ownership rights to the design because the designs were inspired by the traditional patterns of the Mixe community, which organized protests in front of the Marant store in New York.
The Oaxaca congress awarded the Mixe design, a 600-year-old traditional Tlahuitoltepec blouse, protected status as exclusive to the Mixe culture in 2016, but the status is not legally binding.
Reuters contributed to this report
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism