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Fashion world shaken by cultural appropriation claims

Agence France-Presse
Mexico's women embroiderers from Tenango de Doria accuse Carolina Herrera's fashion artistic director Wes Gordon of 'plagiarizing' their patterns for the brand's 2020 Resort collection

MEXICAN PATTERNS. Mexican artisan Glafira Candelaria Jose, of the Otomi ethnic group, works in one of her designs at her workshop in San Nicolas village, in Tenango de Doria, Hidalgo state, Mexico, on June 18, 2019.  The Mexican government asked famous Venezuelan designer Carolina Herrera to explain her decision to use textile designs from three Mexican indigenous communities in 6 pieces of her Resort 2020 collection. Photo by Pedro Pardo / AFP

PARIS, France— The women embroiderers of the remote Mexican mountain village of Tenango de Doria made worldwide headlines this week when their government went to war with an American designer for “plagiarizing” their patterns.

Wes Gordon, the artistic director of the New York label founded by Venezuelan designer Carolina Herrera, found himself accused of cultural appropriation.

{source} <blockquote class=”instagram-media” data-instgrm-permalink=”https://www.instagram.com/p/Bn_OmuVFZ2C/” data-instgrm-version=”12″ style=” background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:540px; min-width:326px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% – 2px); width:calc(100% – 2px);”><div style=”padding:16px;”> <a href=”https://www.instagram.com/p/Bn_OmuVFZ2C/” style=” background:#FFFFFF; line-height:0; padding:0 0; text-align:center; text-decoration:none; width:100%;” target=”_blank”> <div style=” display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;”> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;”></div> <div style=”display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;”> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;”></div> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;”></div></div></div><div style=”padding: 19% 0;”></div> <div style=”display:block; height:50px; margin:0 auto 12px; width:50px;”><svg width=”50px” height=”50px” viewBox=”0 0 60 60″ version=”1.1″ xmlns=”https://www.w3.org/2000/svg” xmlns:xlink=”https://www.w3.org/1999/xlink”><g stroke=”none” stroke-width=”1″ fill=”none” fill-rule=”evenodd”><g transform=”translate(-511.000000, -20.000000)” fill=”#000000″><g><path d=”M556.869,30.41 C554.814,30.41 553.148,32.076 553.148,34.131 C553.148,36.186 554.814,37.852 556.869,37.852 C558.924,37.852 560.59,36.186 560.59,34.131 C560.59,32.076 558.924,30.41 556.869,30.41 M541,60.657 C535.114,60.657 530.342,55.887 530.342,50 C530.342,44.114 535.114,39.342 541,39.342 C546.887,39.342 551.658,44.114 551.658,50 C551.658,55.887 546.887,60.657 541,60.657 M541,33.886 C532.1,33.886 524.886,41.1 524.886,50 C524.886,58.899 532.1,66.113 541,66.113 C549.9,66.113 557.115,58.899 557.115,50 C557.115,41.1 549.9,33.886 541,33.886 M565.378,62.101 C565.244,65.022 564.756,66.606 564.346,67.663 C563.803,69.06 563.154,70.057 562.106,71.106 C561.058,72.155 560.06,72.803 558.662,73.347 C557.607,73.757 556.021,74.244 553.102,74.378 C549.944,74.521 548.997,74.552 541,74.552 C533.003,74.552 532.056,74.521 528.898,74.378 C525.979,74.244 524.393,73.757 523.338,73.347 C521.94,72.803 520.942,72.155 519.894,71.106 C518.846,70.057 518.197,69.06 517.654,67.663 C517.244,66.606 516.755,65.022 516.623,62.101 C516.479,58.943 516.448,57.996 516.448,50 C516.448,42.003 516.479,41.056 516.623,37.899 C516.755,34.978 517.244,33.391 517.654,32.338 C518.197,30.938 518.846,29.942 519.894,28.894 C520.942,27.846 521.94,27.196 523.338,26.654 C524.393,26.244 525.979,25.756 528.898,25.623 C532.057,25.479 533.004,25.448 541,25.448 C548.997,25.448 549.943,25.479 553.102,25.623 C556.021,25.756 557.607,26.244 558.662,26.654 C560.06,27.196 561.058,27.846 562.106,28.894 C563.154,29.942 563.803,30.938 564.346,32.338 C564.756,33.391 565.244,34.978 565.378,37.899 C565.522,41.056 565.552,42.003 565.552,50 C565.552,57.996 565.522,58.943 565.378,62.101 M570.82,37.631 C570.674,34.438 570.167,32.258 569.425,30.349 C568.659,28.377 567.633,26.702 565.965,25.035 C564.297,23.368 562.623,22.342 560.652,21.575 C558.743,20.834 556.562,20.326 553.369,20.18 C550.169,20.033 549.148,20 541,20 C532.853,20 531.831,20.033 528.631,20.18 C525.438,20.326 523.257,20.834 521.349,21.575 C519.376,22.342 517.703,23.368 516.035,25.035 C514.368,26.702 513.342,28.377 512.574,30.349 C511.834,32.258 511.326,34.438 511.181,37.631 C511.035,40.831 511,41.851 511,50 C511,58.147 511.035,59.17 511.181,62.369 C511.326,65.562 511.834,67.743 512.574,69.651 C513.342,71.625 514.368,73.296 516.035,74.965 C517.703,76.634 519.376,77.658 521.349,78.425 C523.257,79.167 525.438,79.673 528.631,79.82 C531.831,79.965 532.853,80.001 541,80.001 C549.148,80.001 550.169,79.965 553.369,79.82 C556.562,79.673 558.743,79.167 560.652,78.425 C562.623,77.658 564.297,76.634 565.965,74.965 C567.633,73.296 568.659,71.625 569.425,69.651 C570.167,67.743 570.674,65.562 570.82,62.369 C570.966,59.17 571,58.147 571,50 C571,41.851 570.966,40.831 570.82,37.631″></path></g></g></g></svg></div><div style=”padding-top: 8px;”> <div style=” color:#3897f0; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:550; line-height:18px;”> View this post on Instagram</div></div><div style=”padding: 12.5% 0;”></div> <div style=”display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;”><div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);”></div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;”></div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);”></div></div><div style=”margin-left: 8px;”> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;”></div> <div style=” width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg)”></div></div><div style=”margin-left: auto;”> <div style=” width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);”></div> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);”></div> <div style=” width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);”></div></div></div> <div style=”display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;”> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;”></div> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;”></div></div></a><p style=” color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;”><a href=”https://www.instagram.com/p/Bn_OmuVFZ2C/” style=” color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none;” target=”_blank”>A post shared by W E S G O R D O N (@wesgordon)</a> on <time style=” font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;” datetime=”2018-09-21T12:20:23+00:00″>Sep 21, 2018 at 5:20am PDT</time></p></div></blockquote> <script async src=”//www.instagram.com/embed.js”></script>{/source} 

The women of the indigenous community in the east of the country told AFP how they felt cheated of their traditional motifs where “each element has a personal, family or community meaning”.

It is the latest in a long line of controversies where multinational brands stand accused of ransacking the cultural heritage of poor villagers.

Four years ago another indigenous Mexican community complained that the French designer Isabel Marant had lifted a 600-year-old Tlahuitoltepec blouse design that is the symbol of the Mixe people.

Mexico has also previously protested about Zara, Mango and Michael Kors designs.

 

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transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg)”></div></div><div style=”margin-left: auto;”> <div style=” width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);”></div> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);”></div> <div style=” width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);”></div></div></div> <div style=”display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;”> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;”></div> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;”></div></div></a><p style=” color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; 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Tougher copyright laws 

Some of the country’s leaders now want to toughen a copyright law that already protects traditional patterns to punish “plagiarism that different indigenous peoples have suffered”.

It is a suggestion that sent a chill down the spines of some designers at Paris fashion week.

Berluti’s new artistic director Kris van Assche — who headed Dior’s menswear line for 11 years — told AFP that “when I was at fashion school we learned that there was nothing shameful about taking inspiration from other cultures.

“We must be careful not to attack everybody for everything,” the Belgian creator added. 

Rising young Spanish star Alejandro Gomez Palomo still more forthright. 

“Cultural appropriation is something we should all forget,” said the designer, who refuses to leave his own Andalusian village where his Palomo Spain label is based. 

‘It belongs to everyone’ 

“Culture belongs to everyone. Rather than harming us, (referencing indigenous styles) brings us all a little closer and Mexico to the world,” he added, stoutly defending Gordon and the veteran Herrera, who stepped back from designing last year.

“It’s like people accused me of cultural appropriation for having a frilly (gypsy) dress,” he declared.

British designer Kim Jones, who took over last year from Van Assche at Dior Homme, has a more nuanced view, insisting “a huge amount of sensitivity has to be put into place.

“You have to treat everyone with a great deal of respect. I grew up all over the world so you see how things are very particular. In Africa if you go even from village to village you see a different styling.

“But as long as you speak to the people, work with them and listen to them and celebrate what they do it is fine,” he added.

 

Hard lessons 

Jones, however, learned the hard way during his long reign at Louis Vuitton just how fine the line between homage and appropriation can be.

Having grown up in Kenya and Tanzania, he referenced the shuka, the famous red and blue checked robe of the Maasai people, in a 2012 Vuitton menswear show.

It sparked protests from some, particularly as the cloth was woven in Scotland.

But in a twist which shows how complex these issues can become, the shuka had its origins in the tartan that Scottish traders and missionaries brought to East Africa’s Great Rift Valley in the 19th century.

The Maasai have since hired lawyers to wring cash and credit from companies like Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Jaguar Land Rover, and other multinationals who have used Maasai iconography. 

“With the Maasai, Vuitton made a donation,” he revealed.

For Jones the thorny issue boils down to two choices, “whether it is cultural appreciation or cultural appropriation”.

Designers can get carried away with themselves “trying to make stories out of things but sometimes they do not know the backstory, the history. 

“But if someone has made the things with the people who actually create them in the first place, that is something that is actually positive,” he added.

“When I worked with things that have been culturally referenced we either asked permission of the people that worked with it and they get a royalty, or we work with them to make the things, so you are actually helping them, which is really essential.”

New York designer Thom Browne agreed, telling AFP Saturday that “everybody has to be conscious and sensitive to the world”.

But for the Danish creator Henrik Vibskov there has to be a bigger philosophical leap.

“The world we live in is getting smaller and the only way mankind can reflect this is by meeting other peoples. 

“Hopefully this generation creates a new culture,” he added. — Rappler.com