Oaxacan Mixe ethnic group challenge French label over clothing design patent

As published on June 19th, the community of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, located in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, was considering the possibility of proceeding legally against French fashion designer Isabel Marant.

Today, a media storm is swirling in Mexico after local news agencies reported that the French government had issued a patent document to the authority of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, to prevent the inhabitants of the municipality from selling their indigenous designs. The existence of this document, or its content, has not yet been confirmed by the French authorities, but for its part, the Isabel Marant label has denied any such patent exists.

Designer Isabel Marant (Picture credit: Indigital)

“Isabel Marant formally denies owning any patent to the Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec embroided blouses,” a statement obtained by Vogue from the company’s representatives read. “Isabel Marant also formally denies having sent – or asked any French authority to send or issue – any document to the authority of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, Oaxaca, to prevent the inhabitants of the municipality from selling their indigenous designs.  On the contrary, Isabel Marant is fighting before the district court of Paris to set the record straight.”

The document is said to suggest that Isabel Marant and another French company, Antik Batik, own the patent to the embroided blouses – and that the Mexican community of Oaxaca will need to pay copyright fees in order to sell them, which understandably has enraged the local people. This follows an initial story in June, in which the two French companies were accused of plagiarism in respect of embroidered blouses which took inspiration from the country’s artisanal designs.

 “Oaxacan designs were kidnapped a few months ago by French fashion designer Isabel Marant and Antik Batik, which began a lawsuit to claim the copyright of textile design originating in indigenous Mixe of Oaxaca,” a local petition against the patent on Change.org states, Revolución 3.0 reports. “They have started legal proceedings to obtain a patent and start the exploitation of Oaxacan design.”
Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec Oaxaca textile
Womand from Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec Oaxaca wearing traditional clothing (Google)

Erasmo Hernandez, the mayor of the Mexican town in question, stated he is not aware of the existence of the document that contains the claim, but  Regino Montes, Secretary of Indigenous Matters, stated that he intends to bring a lawsuit against Antik Batik: “We are facing an obvious transgression of the Mixe people by companies who seek to rob them of their cultural heritage and intellectual property rights, recognised even by the United Nations,” Montes stated.

When the case first arose in June of this year, Marant took pains to confirm – as the company has again in its statement today – that she accepted that the designs, from her spring/summer 2015 collection, had been inspired by the Mexican province, and she had no desire to represent them otherwise.

“Isabel Marant 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,” read a statement from the fashion house at the time. “Moreover, Ms Isabel Marant, after tracing the true origin of these clothes, officially informed the court that she does not claim to be the author of this tunic and these designs.”


Source: http://www.vogue.co.uk/

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