Ralph Lauren apologizes for ‘plagiarism’ of Indigenous design

Luxury American fashion brand Ralph Lauren has apologized after it was accused by Beatriz Gutierrez, wife of Mexico’s president and head of a cultural affairs commission, of plagiarizing indigenous designs.

On Thursday, Gutierrez posted a photo on Instagram of a Ralph Lauren jacket that she said appropriated the designs of the Contla and Saltillo peoples of Mexico.

At the time of posting, the coat was selling at select department stores for $360 (€368).

“Hey Ralph: We already realized you really like Mexican designs,” Gutierrez wrote.

“However, by copying these drawings, you are committing plagiarism, and as you know, plagiarism is illegal and immoral.”

“At least acknowledge it,” she added. “And I hope you compensate the home communities who do this work with love and not for a million dollar profit.”

Gutierrez – who rejects the title of First Lady – is the honorary head of Mexico’s Historical and Cultural Memory Coordinating Council. She has a background in arts, cultural writing and teaching.

Ralph Lauren apologizes

Hours after the publication, Ralph Lauren issued an apology to Reuters news agency and said he was “surprised” the product was still on sale after issuing a directive to remove it from stores months ago.

“We are deeply sorry this has happened and, as always, we are open to dialogue about how we can do better,” the fashion company said in a statement.

Ralph Lauren has pledged that all new products using Indigenous designs after its Summer 2023 collection will be created on a “credit and collaborate” model.

Defend indigenous conceptions

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has launched a relentless campaign to protect the region’s pre-Columbian indigenous heritage since taking office in 2018.

Mexico has already filed lawsuits against major fast fashion brands like Zara, Shein and Mango.

In 2020, French designer Isabel Marant apologized for using a design unique to the Purepecha people of northeastern Mexico after being called out by Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto Guerrero.

zc/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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