Global Fashion Houses Face Mexican Ire

14 June 2021

Mexico's Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto sent letters to three global companies, Zara, Anthropologie and Patowl, asking each for a “public explanation on what basis it could privatise collective property”.

Mexico has targeted the leading international claiming they have taken advantage of the indigenous textile heritage of the country. In effect according to official complaints, these designers used patterns from indigenous Mexican groups in their designs without any benefit to the communities.

The Ministry of Culture says Zara, owned by Iniditex, the world's largest clothing retailer, used a pattern distinctive to the indigenous Mixteca community of San Juan Colorado in the southern state of Oaxaca. Anthropologie, owned by URBN, used a design developed by the indigenous Mixe community of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, while Patowl copied a pattern from the indigenous Zapoteco community in San Antonino Castillo Velasco, both in the state of Oaxaca, according to the Ministry of Culture.

The extent to which fashion designers have profited from incorporating cultural designs without acknowledging their origins or fairly compensating communities has been a point of contention in recent years. In 2019, the Mexican government accused fashion house Carolina Herrera of cultural appropriation of indigenous patterns and textiles from Mexico in its collection.

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