Around 3,000 artisans from across Mexico are expected to attend the first event of Original, a Culture Ministry initiative to support indigenous textile creators and fight cultural appropriation.
The event begins Thursday at the Los Pinos Cultural Center in Mexico City, and will continue through Sunday, November 21. In addition to the artisans exhibiting their wares, there will be speakers, discussions and fashion shows, among other events. It will also feature the presence of national and international brands that may be interested in collaborating with artisans.
“Some people are surprised that there will be catwalks, but [the artisans] themselves want to see their work like that. And more than a fashion show, I see it as a bridge between worlds that normally do not touch, giving value to cultural elements,” Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto Guerrero said.
The event is more than just a textile expo: it was created in response to a string of incidents of what artisans and the Culture Ministry called plagiarism of indigenous designs by big-name brands like Anthropologie and Zara. The goal of Original is to take advantage of the same open market that spawned the appropriation, Frausto explained.
“Since those bad practices already showed us that the market is open, we are going to sell the originals, not copies,” Frausto said. “We are going to provide an alternative so that the creators themselves become the protagonists.”
The Original initiative furthers work that the Culture Ministry started by writing letters to the companies that used indigenous designs without permission. Though the letters made the ministry the target of some criticism, Frausto said they worked as intended: the articles of clothing targeted were taken off the market and 90% of the groups contacted were interested in collaborating with indigenous communities.
With reports from Milenio