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The Mazatec huipil, left, and the Australian design house's product, right. The Mazatec huipil, left, and the Australian design house's product, right.

Australian designer accused of copying traditional Oaxacan huipil

Zimmermann has apologized and withdrawn the product from its collection

An Australian fashion brand has withdrawn a dress from its 2021 collection after facing accusations by members of the Mazatec community in Oaxaca that it plagiarized the design of a traditional huipil, a loose-fitting tunic commonly worn by both indigenous and non-indigenous women in Mexico.

Mazatec people from the Cañada region of the southern state took to social media to denounce Zimmermann, a fashion house that has stores in several countries including the United States, England, Italy and France.

They claim that the company, founded in Sydney by the sisters Nicky and Simone Zimmermann in 1991, copied a Mazatec huipil design to make its Riders Paneled tunic dress, which was part of its 2021 Resort collection and retailed for US $850 on the Zimmerman website before it was withdrawn due to the criticism.

The cut of the Zimmermann garment, the birds and flowers embroidered on it and its colors all resemble a traditional Mazatec huipil. 

Changes made to the original design – the Zimmermann dress sits above the knees and unlike a huipil is not intended to be worn with pants or a skirt – are disrespectful of the Mazatac culture and world view, according to members of the Mazatec community.

The Oaxaca Institute of Crafts also condemned Zimmermann and called on the brand to clarify the origin of its design.

Zimmermann subsequently issued a statement on social media, acknowledging that the tunic dress was inspired by huipiles from Oaxaca

“Zimmermann acknowledges that the paneled tunic dress from our current Swim collection was inspired by what we now understand to be a traditional garment from the Oaxaca region in Mexico,” it said.

“We apologize for the usage without appropriate credit to the cultural owners of this form of dress and for the offense this has caused. Although the error was unintentional, when it was brought to our attention today, the item was immediately withdrawn from all Zimmermann stores and our website. We have taken steps to ensure this does not happen again in future.”

It is far from the first time that a large fashion house has been accused of plagiarism of indigenous Mexican designs.

Among the other designers/brands that have been denounced for the practice are Isabel Marant, Carolina Herrera, Mango and Pippa Holt.

Source: El Universal (sp) 

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