Mexico has accused fashion companies Zara, Anthropologie and Patowl of cultural appropriation, claiming that they “made use” of designs created by the country’s indigenous people.
Per CNN, Mexico’s Ministry of Culture asked for a “public explanation” in a series of letters written to the brands. It also called for “benefits” to be “given back to the creative communities” that it believes invented the embroidery techniques and design motifs that the companies have been using.
The letters signed by Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto Guerrero and dated May 13, were made public this past week. They identify several items of clothing from the three brands beside corresponding examples of garments created by indigenous craftspeople from the Oaxaca region.
In a press release, the Ministry of Culture took issue with a blue embroidered midi dress by Zara. It claimed the Spain-based brand had drawn on the ancestral symbols and traditional “huipil” dresses produced by the Mixtec people of San Juan Colorado, Mexico, adding that the dresses typically take craftspeople at least one month to make. The item in question is no longer available for sale on Zara’s website.
On their Twitter The Ministry of Culture called out the brands “for an explanation #Zara ,#Anthropologie Y #Patowl by cultural appropriation in various textile designs.”
La Secretaría de Cultura pide explicación a las marcas #Zara, #Anthropologie y #Patowl por apropiación cultural en diversos diseños textiles— Secretaría de Cultura (@cultura_mx) May 29, 2021
Detalles 👉 https://t.co/VH4wk4G137 pic.twitter.com/reD6vzecNh
A pair of embroidered shorts by Anthropologie was also shown as an example of cultural appropriation. The Mexican government claimed that the item, which costs nearly $70, features symbols reminiscent of those used by the Mixe community, in Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, CNN reports. The shorts are still available for sale on Anthropologie’s site.
Patowl’s “casual flowers” shirts were, according to the Mexican Ministry of Culture, inspired by the embroidery techniques of the Zapotec community of San Antonino Castillo Velasco. The government alleged the handmade floral embroidery on Patowl’s shirts was an imitation of a complex technique known as “hazme si puedes” (“make me if you can”), and include the community’s pansy motifs.
In its press release, the Ministry of Culture said that indigenous communities’ “collective property” had been “privatized” by the brands, calling on them to create an “ethical framework” to work directly with its craftspeople. The press release stated it was acting to “prevent plagiarism … by national companies and transnationals,” adding that it was “protecting the rights of native peoples who have historically been disregarded.”
In a statement emailed to CNN, Zara’s parent company, Inditex, said it had “the highest respect,” for “the Ministry (of Culture) 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.”
Last November, French designer Isabel Marant apologized after Mexico’s Ministry of Culture claimed her label used the styles created by the Purepecha community without acknowledgment. Marant said “if the Isabel Marant house and the designer have disrespected the Purepecha community… they implore you, and the country you represent, to accept their most sincere apologies,” according to BBC.