A Classic Case of Stealing Culture (Mixe vs Marant)

It’s plain and simple! This is a much too typical case of powerhouse fashion designers ripping off indigenous communities. A widely accepted and modern day form of exploitation, which disempowers groups who are already marginalized, is also known as APPROPRIATION. Although there is a fine line between appreciation and appropriation, designer Tereneh Mosely of Idia’Dega says it the best: “The problem is when people don’t give creative credit and economic benefit to cultures who created it.” For wealthy and often times white designers … it’s okay to be inspired by communities of color but it won’t hurt your credibility to really immerse yourself in a culture and create an authentic relationship that provides reciprocity for these talented and beautiful communities.

Of the thousands of cases we see saturating the fashion marketplace … the most recent case appropriation is what I called the “MIXE versus Marant” case, which I believe made ethical folks around the globe proud!

Isabel Marant is a well-known Parisian designer whose collections have captivated a worldwide audience. Across a myriad of retailers, press features and fashion enthusiast, her designs have been described as “cool style, trend-inspiring and street wear must haves”. However, her billowy tunic dresses, embroidered blouses and metallic harem pants have been under some scrutiny but one blouse in particular was a down right replica of traditional apparel from the Mixe communities of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, Oaxaca, Mexico. This is a community who is rich in culture and takes a great deal of pride in their history. It's a traditional town where their clothing amongst other things is symbolic for their community.

The striking resemblance of this blouse singled out from Marant’s Etolie collection (debuted in July 2015) went under social media attack by Oaxacan singer Susana Harp, who tweeted a picture of a blouse from Marant’s Etoile collection alongside a photo of the "600-year-old design" for the traditional Tlahuitoltepec blouse. The images went viral causing social media attacks and protests against the designer, as well a national debate.

The Mixe community didn’t waste any time seeking reparation damages from the designer, which immediately took legal action. A sacred symbol of their heritage and identity was clearly subjugated. After press conferences and hearings and an uphill battle, a ruling gave the Indigenous group “the right to decide on how they maintain and protect their own identities.”

“Oaxaca’s congress has just awarded Cultural and Intangible Heritage status to the designs, costumes, handicrafts as well as the languages spoken by the Indigenous peoples of a community called Mixe. The ruling concluded that Indigenous peoples and communities have the social right to maintain, develop, preserve and protect their own identities and the elements that comprise them.” They are also being protected in order to preserve their traditions and customs through cultural programs and public policies, which are meant to support the conservation of textiles and design.  The ruling gives the communities the right to choose how they maintain and protect their own identities. 

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address:


Protect your culture and dictate your narrative! The DNA of fashion should always celebrate multiculturalism, but there are ways in which it should and needs to be done.