Mexico has criticized major clothing brands Zara, Anthropologie and Patowl for using patterns and other elements of indigenous Mexican textiles in their collections without permission, the culture ministry said on Friday.
The ministry sent letters to all three labels asking them to publicly clarify the reasons why “collective ownership” of indigenous peoples in the southern state of Oaxaca had been privatized and to indicate how they intended to compensate affected communities.
Minister Alejandra Frausto told brands not to undermine cultures’ ‘identity and economy’, and called for changes that put indigenous designers from 56 Mexican ethnic groups on a par with big brands .
Protecting their rights, “which have always been invisible”, is an ethical principle that must be addressed locally and globally, she added.
Separate missives for each brand, dated May 13 and signed by Frausto, identify the specific products at fault.
In the case of Spanish firm Zara, the ministry said a midi dress with a belt incorporated elements of Mixtec culture, from the municipality of Oaxaca to San Juan.
American brand Anthropologie’s Marka embroidered shorts are said to contain elements of the culture of the Mixe people, and Patowl, also an American, is accused of having made a “faithful copy” of the traditional clothing of the Zapotec people for his range of printed t-shirts Tops.
This is not the first time that Mexico has taken a stand against the issue.
In November, she challenged French fashion designer Isabel Marant over her latest collection which she said commercially exploited indigenous designs.
The designer Carolina Herrera and the Spanish companies Rapsodia and Mango have also been selected to appropriate Mexican creations.