Another day, another case of cultural appropriation from a high fashion designer. This time, an embroidered blouse from Isabel Marant’s Etoile Spring 2015 diffusion line is the subject of a complaint from a group of Mixe women from Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec in Oaxaca, Mexico. The women say that Marant’s $290 dollar blouse is uncomfortably similar to the traditional blouses they wear and that the designer outright plagiarized their tradition spanning centuries.
The Tlahuitoltepec women claim that the piece in question “contains the graphical elements specific to the Tlahuitoltepec blouse, a design which has transcended borders, and is not a novel creation as is affirmed by the designer.” But Isabel Marant isn’t the only one in battle over the design. According to the Guardian, Antik Batik is also challenging Marant, as it claims they have ownership over the blouse design. So now, we have two western labels fighting over the intellectual property of a people whose history spans back centuries. On the Batik website, the Italian-born designer Gabriella Cortese is described as one with “a spirit for traveling in her soul,” so it’s clear that she gets “inspired” by other cultures quite often. The hashtag #miblusadetlahui is trending on Twitter, taking Marant to task for her alleged plagiarism.
At the very least, Marant admits that she did get a little too inspired by the aesthetic of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec. “She has presented submissions which expressly point out that these designs come from the village of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec in the province of Oaxaca, in Mexico,” Marant’s people said. “Moreover, Ms Isabel Marant, after tracing the true origin of these clothes, officially informed the court: ‘For her part, Ms Isabel Marant does not claim to be the author of this tunic and these designs’.”
The women of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec are imploring Marant to stop selling the blouse and to acknowledge where it came from, which is the very least she can do, considering she’s profited off the art and culture of these people, who likely will not see a dime of what Marant has made appropriating their aesthetic.