Mexico accuses Carolina Herrera fashion house of cultural appropriation

The Mexican government has accused American fashion house Carolina Herrera of “cultural appropriation,” claiming its latest collection used designs created by the country’s indigenous communities.

Mexico’s Culture Ministry said the designs used in the Resort 2020 collection held personal meaning to some indigenous people, in a letter sent to the company’s founder, Herrera, and its creative director, Wes Gordon, CNNE reported.

It said the pair should “publicly explain on what basis it decided to make use of these cultural elements, whose origins are documented, and how this benefits the communities,” Reuters reported.

Susana Harp, a senator from the ruling National Regeneration Movement party, also criticized the company on Twitter, while several commentators have been using the hashtag #MéxicoSinPlagio — “Mexico Without Plagiarism” — to show their opposition to the brand.

“For many years we have been trying to stop big brands and designers, who, in this disrespectful manner, take elements of of indigenous cultures without approaching the communities or working with them,” Harp said in a video posted on her Twitter feed.

She added that, in 2015, Carolina Herrera had collaborated with an indigenous community on a bag collection, so it was particularly surprising now that the new range had been brought out “without permission, without respect, without any economic consideration.”

The Resort 2020 collection features a number of colorful Mexican patterns and traditional flower designs. The fashion house says it “takes on the playful and colorful mood of a Latin holiday.”

“Inspired by the House spirit of alegría de vivir that is synonymous with the resort season, this collection is about visceral reactions of delight-eclectic patterns, unexpected silhouettes, pulsating energy,” its description adds.

Venezuelan-American Herrera, 80, handed over creative control of her brand to Gordon last year. She has dressed numerous celebrities and high-profile figures over a decades-long career, with clients including former first ladies Jackie Kennedy and Michelle Obama.

Mexico’s National Regeneration Movement party has sought to introduce protections for designs created by indigenous people, after a number of complaints in recent years that multinational fashion companies have plagiarized their work.

The issue is echoed in countries around the world, with the fashion industry regularly facing accusations of cultural appropriation. In 2017, Chanel was criticized for appropriating Indigenous Australian culture by selling a $1,325 boomerang. Gucci faced even greater criticism last month for offering a $790 turban in one of its collections.

CNN has contacted Carolina Herrera with a request for comment.

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