Mexico weaves fashion policies to help indigenous communities

Mexico weaves fashion policies to help indigenous communities

Clothing designers, inspired by traditional Mexican motifs, embroidery and colors, exhibited their work at a fashion fair in Mexico City, promoted by the government to support marginalized indigenous communities.

Traditional blouses made by the Tzotzil people of Chiapas, embroidered patterns from Michoacan and shirts from Oaxaca were among the garments on display in the first of seven parades during the “Original” event.

“The creation of every product made in our community is a legacy of our ancestors,” said Carlos Alberto Delgado Martinez, one of about 500 exhibitors at the event, which ran until Sunday at the former presidential residence of Los Pinos.

“It is important that we artisans save and defend our culture from plagiarism, because every piece of clothing has a meaning. Every embroidery has a statement,” he added.

As with the first edition in 2021, ‘Original’ aims to fight what Mexico calls plagiarism of indigenous textiles by foreign clothing brands, and to create a more equitable fashion industry.

“We are not against (the big fashion houses) using motifs of pre-Hispanic origin,” as long as they recognize “the intellectual work and creativity” of Mexican artisans, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Friday.

“The government is pursuing a policy of restoring the dignity of indigenous peoples,” Lopez Obrador spokesman Jesus Ramirez Cuevas told AFP.

“Mexico wouldn’t be what it is without its indigenous peoples,” he said, highlighting the government’s social programs for impoverished communities.

“It’s time for them to play a central role in the construction of the (national) identity. Today we recognize their art,” he added.

Mexico has filed several complaints against major clothing brands, including Zara, Mango and SHEIN for alleged cultural appropriation.

Last month it won an apology from American fashion house Ralph Lauren after Lopez Obrador’s wife, Beatriz Gutierrez, accused it of plagiarizing indigenous designs.

French designer Isabel Marant also apologized in 2020 for using the traditional patterns of an indigenous community.

Mexico’s Ministry of Culture has called for “ethical cooperation” between clothing brands and artisans.

“No to plagiarism. No to cultural appropriation. Yes to original creations and the communities behind them,” said Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto.

The government is also trying to recover pre-Hispanic archaeological pieces from abroad and stop foreign auctions of items that Lopez Obrador has labeled “immoral.”

“Want to buy Mexican art? Buy this one, which is alive,” Frausto said, pointing to models dressed in blouses, shirts and belts made by indigenous artisans. (AFP)

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