Mexico seeks to protect indigenous designs from ‘theft’


Mexico – AFP

Mexico has launched a counterattack to curb the plagiarism of its artisans’ designs by international fashion houses, by organizing over the weekend a dialogue between a number of foreign designers and their indigenous communities in order to find a fairer fashion.

For this purpose, the Ministry of Culture brought together dozens of indigenous designers from Mexico in a kind of show of strength, and set up an exhibition for them in Los Pinos, the former residence of Mexican presidents that current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has restored to the public. The exhibition, running through Sunday, is called “Original, Mexican Textile Art” and features clothing and accessories such as the weepel, a traditional white cotton blouse with delicately embroidered patterns.

The open-air market concludes every evening with two parades of indigenous pride parades in the vast garden surrounding the palace that Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto has renamed “the official residence of the people of Mexico.”

Through this event, the government aims to raise the voice against foreign fashion houses plagiarizing the patterns, embroideries and shimmering colors of the indigenous peoples of Mexico in Chiapas, Oaxaca and elsewhere.

Minister Frausto stressed, during the opening of the exhibition, on Friday, that what she described as “literary theft” does not constitute a “homage” to Mexican designs.

The minister expressed her satisfaction with the apology announced a year ago by the French designer, Isabel Marant, for using the traditional patterns of the Buribisha people in one of her coats.

The event program featured a dialogue between indigenous artisans, representatives of the House of Isabel Maran and the great Spanish designer Agata Ruiz de la Prada.

Required agreements

On Friday, a dialogue was held, including two designers who came specially from Paris, with Ignacio Ntazhual Coyotel and his partner Christian Khanate, within a workshop in the state of Tlaxcala (eastern Mexico). After the meeting, Ntzahual Coyotel said that “plagiarism is the result of a lack of communication,” considering that “communication allows for agreements to be made.”

“We demand fair wages for our work, and the price should take into account the design, patterns and number of hours worked,” he added.

As for the Parisian designer Théophile Delettre, who founded the label “Caler Deliter” with the French-Mexican Alonso Calderon Hernandez, he said: “We want to find agreements with the craftsmen that we will work with.” However, there is still a long way to go to get there. Aboriginal artisans participating in the exhibition regret discovering copies of their creations of varying quality on the Internet.

“A few months ago, we took action to protest the existence of a computer cloned Whipple,” said young seamstress Candy Margarita de la Cruz Santiago of Oaxaca state.

Laws are being put in place to reduce plagiarism. “The new provisions that were put in place last year, make it necessary to obtain written consent from indigenous communities when this type of textile art is used for profit,” explained the representative of the National Copyright Institute Marco Antónion Morales Montes.

He added that Mexico also called for the discussion of this issue in the World Intellectual Property Organization. “We must enforce the law against plagiarism,” said Marta Serna Lewis, 58, a textile artisan. It is theft.”


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