Designers might want to think twice before attempting to appropriate indigenous people’s cultural designs. Labels like Antik Batik and French designer Isabel Marant learned an expensive lesson last year.
As part of her “Étoile” collection, Marant presented a beige cotton blouse with red and white flowers, identical to the huipil, a 600-year-old traditional design of the Mixe people. After much backlash from the indigenous communities and their supporters, Marat pulled the shirt — retailing at $365 — from her collection.
In March, Mixe designs and language as were declared as Intangible Cultural Heritage per UNESCO guidelines. It’s a first step in protecting the tradition because in spite of this declaration, the act is not legally binding.
“It does not make it legally binding, because Mexico a) is not a signatory to UNESCO’s 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage and b) Mexico has not submitted the Mixe’s ‘intangible heritage’ to the Convention Committee for approval to list,” said Dr. Jane Anderson, an anthropology professor at NYU, in a Huffington Post interview.
“What would be nice, given that the fashion industry is full of appropriation of indigenous designs, would be the development of some kind of industry standard,” suggested Anderson. “It is possible to get change, it just takes a while.”
[H/T: The Huffington Post]
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