Mexico accused international fashion brands Zara, Anthropologie and Patowl of cultural appropriation, saying they used models of indigenous groups in their designs without any benefit to communities.

The Ministry of Culture said in a press release that it had sent letters signed by the Minister of Culture, Alejandra Frausto, to the three companies, asking each for a “public explanation on what basis it could privatize collective property”.

The ministry said the companies were inspired by designs created in the southwestern state of Oaxaca and called for benefits to be attributed to the communities behind them.

Zara, who belongs to the world’s largest clothing retailer, Inditex, is accused of using a distinctive pattern from the indigenous Mixteca community of San Juan Colorado in creating a mint-colored midi dress with green embroidery.

The Culture Ministry claimed that the design “reflected ancestral symbols related to the community’s environment, history and worldview” and was similar to traditional symbols. Huipil dresses that, she said, were part of a woman’s identity and took local artisans at least a month to make.

Inditex said in a statement 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 Anthropologie, owned by URBN, copied an embroidery design developed by the Mixe community of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec in the production of its sky blue raw-hem shorts, decorated with purple and mint embroidery. The designs allegedly copied in this embroidery “are a manifestation of identity, history and relationship with the environment,” he said.

He also claimed that Patowl copied a motif from the Zapotec community of San Antonino Castillo Velasco for his floral blouses, adorned with delicate lace and embroidery. The government alleged the hand-made floral embroidery copy the complex community Hazme si puedes Technique “do me if you can”.

URBN and Patowl did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

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

The problem is particularly high profile in Mexico, where hundreds of years of Western brands copying indigenous designs, often produced by poor communities, and reselling them as “boho chic” for hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, have recently been sold. amplified by the public. accusations and stigma on social media.

Frausto issued a statement last fall saying Mexico will no longer tolerate the cultural appropriation of local designs without credit, according to the WWD fashion trade title.

This action, which the ministry said was taken to shed light on issues such as “protecting the rights of indigenous peoples which have always been invisible”, is the latest example.

In February, the Oaxaca Artisans Institute in southern Mexico commissioned Australian clothing brand Zimmermann, worn by high profile fans like Kendall Jenner and the Duchess of Cambridge, to plagiarize the Mazatec community for its Resort 2021 collection. .

Zimmermann claimed the error was unintentional, but withdrew the item from sale. “We apologize for the use without proper credit to the cultural owners of this form of dress and for the infringement this has caused,” he said in an Instagram post.

Intellectual property attorney Joaquín Elizalde told WWD at the time that companies are unlikely to stop taking ownership of Mexican design without an overhaul of intellectual property laws. “The procedures are long and expensive and many of these communities simply cannot afford them”, he said.

French designer Isabel Marant gave her “the most sincere apologies”In November after Mexico’s culture ministry accused her of copying a model created by the Purepecha community.

Marant was accused of copy another mexican design in 2015, and admitted that she was “inspired” by the indigenous Mixe community. This became part of her defense when she was sued by another French label, Antik Batik, who accused her of copying their design in creating the blouse.

The court ruled in favor of Marant, claiming that Antik Batik could not claim any property rights over the design because the designs were inspired by the traditional models of the Mixe community, which organized protests outside the Marant store in New York.

The Oaxaca Congress gave the Mixe design – a 600-year-old traditional Tlahuitoltepec blouse – protected status as unique to Mix culture in 2016, but the status is not legally binding.

Reuters contributed to this report

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