Fashion may be facing a reckoning when it comes to cultural borrowing — one that, at the very least, forces credit to be given where is due.
After a call-out for cultural appropriation from Mexico’s secretary of culture Alejandra Frausto Guerrero late last month, designer Isabel Marant has apologized.
In a written response — which Frausto posted Monday to her Twitter account, where she has generated debate over the contested appreciation versus appropriation issue and fashion’s role in it — Marant said the brand has always been “open to the world and oriented toward foreign cultures and traditions. For this reason, it reinterprets the dress codes in order to enhance and highlight the cultural mix.”
That said, though, the brand still sought to beg pardon for its actions.
“If the Maison Isabel Marant and, with it, its creator, have disrespected the Purépecha community and Mexico, to whom you give a voice, they beg you, Madam Minister, and the country you represent, to accept their most sincere apology,” read the letter, undersigned by Marant herself and brand chief executive officer Anouck Duranteau-Loeper. “In the future, we will ensure that our interests coexist and expressly pay tribute to our sources of inspiration by expressing our gratitude to the owners of traditional cultural expressions.”
Bride of the Times
Frausto had accused Marant of using “elements of the culture and identity of the people’s and communities of Mexico” in her fall 2020 Étoile Isabel Marant collection, where its Gabin Cape drew on patterns and designs originating from indigenous Mexican communities like the Purépecha of Michoacán.
Marant expressed in her response that she was “enormously” saddened to see that her approach to the designs had been perceived as cultural appropriation when her aim was “to promote a craft and pay tribute to an aesthetic to which it is linked.”
The issue Mexico’s culture secretary has taken with fashion’s actions in drawing on diverse communities and traditions for its designs is that, more often than not, brands fail to engage creator communities and to give back for what they have borrowed or been inspired by.
In the tweet sharing Marant’s letter, Frausto said, “…communities must be at the center of any initiative. We invite international designers to be allies in the defense of the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples, recognizing their value and diversity.”
Going forward, they may. Particularly if tensions over cultural appropriation continue to rise and brands continue to be called to account.
For Marant’s part, the letter closed with a note of commitment to right this error, saying, “We remain at your entire disposal to consider joint actions.”
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