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Mexico fights ‘plagiarism’ with indigenous fashion fair




Mexico is fighting what it calls plagiarism of indigenous textiles, bringing together traditional artisans and international designers for a dialogue aimed at creating a more equitable fashion industry.

Dozens of indigenous weavers and other artisans gather this weekend in the former presidential residence of Los Pinos in Mexico City for the “Original” fair organized by the Ministry of Culture.

Next to an open-air market selling clothes and accessories such as the huipil, a traditional white cotton blouse with intricately embroidered patterns, there are fashion shows resembling native pride marches.

The goal is to end what the leftist government of Mexico denounces as a cultural appropriation of the patterns, embroidery and colors of indigenous communities by foreign fashion houses.

“Plagiarism is not a tribute. Theft is not the result of inspiration,” Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto said at the opening of the fair.

She denounced the “modern day pirates” who “take what they like and label it as any kind of commodity.”

– ‘Lack of communication’ –

Mexico got an apology a year ago from French designer Isabel Marant after Frausto demanded an explanation for Marant’s use of traditional motifs from the Purepecha community in her collection.

Similar complaints have been filed against major clothing brands, including Zara and Mango.

Marant said future designs “will pay homage to our sources of inspiration”.

A representative of her company was to meet directly with indigenous artisans at the Mexico City fair, as was the Spanish designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada.

On Friday, two young Parisian designers met craftsman Ignacio Netzahualcoyotl and his partner Christian Janat in their studio in Tlaxcala state, east of Mexico City.

“Plagiarism is the result of a lack of communication,” Netzahualcoyotl said afterwards.

“We demand that our work be fairly remunerated,” he added.

“The price must take into account the design, the patterns, the number of hours worked,” he said after presenting his fabric to the two Parisians.

“We want to agree with the artisans with whom we are going to work,” said French designer Théophile Delaeter, co-creator of the Calher Delaeter brand with his Franco-Mexican co-creator Alonso Calderon Hernandez.

– ‘This is theft’ –

Indigenous artisans at the fair complained about finding copies of their fabric on the Internet.

“A few months ago we fought because we found a computer-reproduced huipil,” said Candy Margarita de la Cruz Santiago, a young weaver from the southern state of Oaxaca.

Legal measures are being put in place to tackle the problem.

“Under the new arrangements we have had since last year, the written consent of communities is required when this type of textile art is to be used for profit,” said a representative of the National Institute of Human Rights. ‘author, Marco Antonio Morales Montes.

Mexico is also asking for a discussion within the World Intellectual Property Organization on the issue, he added.

Artisan weavers like Marta Serna Luis, 58, hope these steps will give them the recognition they seek.

“We need to enforce the law against the perpetrators of plagiarism. It is theft,” she said.

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