Mexico seeks to protect artisans after Carolina Herrera scandal

Wes Gordon, Carolina Herrera's new creative director, has been accused of plagiarism and cultural appropriation in Mexico

Mexico seeks to protect artisans after Carolina Herrera scandal
Tenangos are fantastical creatures embroidered into clothes and other goods by Indigenous communities - Photo: File Photo/EL UNIVERSAL
English 12/06/2019 16:58 Newsroom & Agencies Mexico City Actualizada 17:07
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Wes Gordon, Carolina Herrera's new creative director has been accused of plagiarism and cultural appropriation in Mexico after his designs featured traditional designs and embroideries that belong to Indigenous communities in Mexico.

Today it was announced that politicians are taking legal action to protect the Mexican artisans from plagiarism.

Kenia Montiel Pimentel, the Undersecretary of Social Participation and Artisanal Promotion, under the Social Development Ministry, lamented that these international companies repeatedly invade the cultural sphere of the Indigenous communities in Mexico without any repercussion. The official added that the problem is not the inappropriately named “Mexican inspiration, but rather the lack of recognition of the Mexican artisans and their work.

She added that Mexican authorities will ask Carolina Herrera to recognize and show some of the stories of the communities that create the Tenangos, Oaxacan embroideries, and sarapes. Moreover, she explains that other brands who have used these elements explain the origin or add the name of the artisans in the tags.

In the face of several plagiarism cases, the artisans have registered their brands and designs at the Mexican Institute of Intellectual Property (IMPI).

The official also mentioned that artisans have been embroiled in legal battles against brands such as Hermès, Pineda Covalin, Nestlé, Mango, and Zara.

On the other hand, Mexico's Culture Minister said she was against the use Carolina Herrera made of embroideries from artisans from Tenango de Doria, in the state of Hidalgo; embroideries from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, in Oaxaca, and patterns used in typical sarapes from Saltillo, in the state of Coahuila. The Mexican minister demanded an explanation from Carolina Herrera and its creative director, Wes Gordon, who should explain: “under what arguments did they decide to use cultural elements whose origin has been fully documented and how does its utilization benefits the Mexican communities.”

In a letter sent to Carolina Herrera by Alejandra Frausto, Mexico's Culture Minister, on June 10, the Mexican official explains that “In the case of the models 8 and 23, the embroideries come from the Tenango de Dorio community, Hidalgo; these embroideries contain the communities' story and each element has a personal, family, and community significance. The models 11 and 13 incorporate embroideries from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which give women from the region their identity.”

She also explains that two other pieces incorporate the “Saltillo sarape” and explains that this sarape tells the story of the journey of the people of Tlaxcala for the foundation of the north of the country.

Frausto claims that “the appropriation” act carried out by the firm is an example of how Indigenous communities are “key in the development of the global society.”

Susana Harp, the head of the Culture Commission in the Senate, recognized that Mexico's new law in this matter should be open to the participation of the Indigenous communities so that it protects them and accompanies them against the western logic, which is quite different from the understanding of the Indigenous world.

Nevertheless, in response to the letter sent by Mexico's Culture Minister, Alejandra Frausto, to Carolina Herrera and the creative director, Wes Gordon claims his designs are a homage to the “cultural richness of Mexico.”

In his statement, Gordon also recognized “the wonderful and diverse artisanal work” in Mexico. He also claims that the collection “is a token of my love for this country (Mexico) and for the incredible work I've seen there.” He states that he “wants to pay homage to the different artisanal techniques that still exist in the world.”

Criticism erupted in Mexico after social media users and officials spotted traditional Mexican elements in the Carolina Herrera Resort 2020 collection because these elements are part of the worldview of Indigenous communities in Mexico.

Moreover, the Mexican government is working on a bill to protect the artisans' work and creativity against plagiarism.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Mexican artisans have faced cultural appropriation and plagiarism from international brands. In the past, Zara, Mango, Isabel Marant, Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, Santa Marguerite, and Etoile have plagiarized Mexican artisans.



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