Fashion designer Ralph Lauren apologizes for cultural appropriation
Mexico's First Lady accused the fashion mogul of using patterns and designs from indigenous communities in Mexico such as the Saltillo.
Designer Ralph Lauren issued an apology Friday after Mexico's First Lady Beatriz Gutierrez accused his US fashion house of plagiarism of indigenous designs, as she requested compensation for local communities.
Mexico regularly decries what it observes as plagiarism by foreign designers, such as Lauren, for the use of motifs, embroidery, and colors pertaining to the native indigenous communities. Lauren was not the only fashion house to have a complaint filed against, as among them are major clothing brands including Zara, Mango, and SHEIN.
In his statement, Lauren said: "We are deeply sorry this happened and, as always, we are open to dialogue about how we can do better,"
First Lady Gutierrez, a journalist and writer who also heads a cultural affairs commission, said in an Instagram post: "Hey Ralph: we already realized that you really like Mexican designs,... However, by copying these designs you're committing plagiarism, and as you know, plagiarism is illegal and immoral".
She posted a picture of a jacket designed by Lauren whose design she claimed matched those of the Mexican communities of Contla and Saltillo. "At least acknowledge it. And hopefully, you will compensate the original communities that do this work with love and not for million-dollar profit," she added.
In light of that, the statement by Ralph Lauren expressed shock that the jacket was being sold, adding: "When our team discovered months ago that this was in our product pipeline, we issued a stern directive to remove the item from all channels."
Mexico has gotten previous apologies before for the same reasons, such as one by French designer Isabel Marant in 2020 for the use of the traditional patterns from an Indigenous community located in the west of Mexico.
Matters such as Lauren's case and other fashion houses using patterns and designs from other ethnicities and communities without acknowledging or giving credit could entail cultural appropriation - a major issue facing the US recently as African-American, Arab, and Latino cultures are being donned at festivals such as Coachella in California or Burning Man in Nevada.