Mexico accuses Zara and Anthropologie of cultural appropriation

Mexico has accused major fashion brands including Zara and Anthropologie of cultural appropriation, claiming that they “made use” of designs created by the country’s indigenous populations.

Mexico’s ministry of culture has written to the companies, calling for proceeds to be “given back to the creative communities” that it says invented the embroidery techniques and design motifs.

They highlighted several of the companies’ items on sale in shops and compared them with garments made by the indigenous craftspeople from the Oaxaca region of southwestern Mexico while demanding a “public explanation on what basis (they) could privatise collective property”.

Spanish brand Zara, which is owned by the world’s largest clothing retailer, Inditex, is accused of using a pattern distinctive to the Mixteca community in the creation of a blue midi dress with green embroidery.

Mexico's ministry of culture compares Zara designs with those made by indigenous communities - Mexico ministry of culture
Mexico’s ministry of culture compares Zara designs with those made by indigenous communities – Mexico ministry of culture

The ministry’s letter, signed by Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto Guerrero, claimed the design “reflects ancestral symbols related to the environment, history and worldview of the community” and was similar to traditional huipil dresses which, it said, took local craftspeople several weeks to make.

Inditex said it had “the highest respect,” for “the Ministry and the communities within Mexico,” but added that “the design in question was in no way intentionally borrowed from or influenced by the artistry of the Mixtec people of Mexico.”

Anthropologie was accused of copying an embroidery design developed by the Mixe community of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec in the production of its raw-hemmed shorts decorated with violet and mint embroidery, which cost nearly $70 (£50).

The patterns “are a manifestation of identity, history and relationship with the environment”, the ministry said.

The shorts were still available for sale on Anthropologie’s site on Monday, however, the brand is yet to publicly comment.

Mexico's government said that symbols featured on Anthropologie's embroidered shorts are reminiscent of those used by the country's Mixe community.  - Anthropologie
Mexico’s government said that symbols featured on Anthropologie’s embroidered shorts are reminiscent of those used by the country’s Mixe community. – Anthropologie

There was a mixed reaction to the ministry’s statement on social media.

“This isn’t cultural appropriation, this is theft. Legal copyright theft of traditional Mexican clothing designs, claiming as their own with no benefits given to the originators of these designs, mostly indigenous people,” one Twitter user said, calling for a boycott of the brands.

Another, Lubna Hamdan, wrote: “Can we cancel this ridiculous idea of ‘cultural appropriation?’ What is wrong with fashion inspired by cultural elements?”

It is not the first instance of Mexico accusing American and European outlets of appropriating indigenous designs.

Last November, French designer Isabel Marant apologised after the culture ministry claimed her label had used a pattern created by the Purepecha community.

Marant offered her “most sincere apologies,” saying that she would “pay tribute to our sources of inspiration” in the future.

Zara has come under fire before for selling a checked wraparound skirt on its website which bore a striking resemblance to the traditional “lungi”, worn by men throughout India and Southeast Asia.

The extent to which fashion designers have profited from incorporating cultural designs without acknowledging their origins or fairly compensating communities has been a point of contention in recent years.

While some in the industry say it is unacceptable, others say it is a natural consequence of globalisation.

Kendall Jenner is seen promoting her line of Tequila, "818" - GC Images 
Kendall Jenner is seen promoting her line of Tequila, “818” – GC Images

Meanwhile, supermodel and reality TV star Kendall Jenner is facing her own accusations of cultural appropriation after launching a new line of tequila.

Some in Mexico, where the alcohol originates, said they were uncomfortable with the white American celebrity cashing in on an industry and culture she has no connection to.

To promote the label, 818, Jenner shot an advert with “local, family-owned farms” in Jalisco, Mexico, as her backdrop. She wore jeans and a shirt resembling a Mexican shawl, accessorised with a sombrero and a pair of cowboy boots.

Source: Telegraph UK

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