A Tenango artisan with her work. A Tenango artisan with her work.

Clothing firm accused of copying embroidery

Hidalgo artisans' designs allegedly used by manufacturer-retailer Mango

A Spanish multinational clothing company has been accused of copying the unique embroidery designs of artisans from the state of Hidalgo.

But the artisans from the municipality of Tenango de Doria — located in the east of the state bordering Puebla — are not surprised that Barcelona-based Mango has pirated their patterns because it has become a somewhat common occurrence.

Before the Spanish firm used their designs on a line of sweaters, several other Mexican and foreign companies had also plagiarized their work.

Over 1,700 craftspeople from the municipality, which is home to a large population of Otomí and Tephua people, work at creating the Tenango embroidery designs, inspired by the area’s flora and fauna and embellished with aspects of the region’s mysticism.

Although their designs are trademarked, in the absence of designation of origin (PDO) status to protect their work putting a stop to the plagiarism is easier said than done.

However, they may have the support of the state government to help them fight back against the Spanish firm.

An undersecretary in the state Secretariat of Social Development (Sedeso) said that its legal department is considering joining the artisans to make a criminal complaint against Mango.

Kenia Montiel Pimentel said that representatives from both Sedeso and the Secretariat of Culture are meeting with the aggrieved embroiderers with a view to taking the first step, which would be advising the company about the designs’ copyright protection. Legal action would follow.

Montiel said Sedeso had assisted the artisans to register their designs with the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI) but explained that obtaining a PDO was hindered by the fact that the types of materials and threads they use are widely available outside the region.

The motivation for any legal action is for artisans to receive due credit for their work, Montiel said.

The artisans themselves recognize that the task ahead is a daunting one.

“Plagiarism is almost inevitable, even though we have the trademark we are a very small business and suing those kinds of companies is not easy . . . .” Adelzayda Canales said.

Beatriz Cajero, who has worked as an embroiderer since the age of seven, also felt their chances of succeeding were minimal.

“. . . We are in [a position of] defenselessness. It makes me sad that they do that. How is it possible that they pirate indigenous art?” she asked.

Tenango de Doria

The artisans also complained that large brands never send representatives to meet with them. Instead, intermediaries arrive to buy the garments before reselling the designs to Mexican or international companies.

French fashion house Hermes and Mexican brand Pineda Covalín are among firms that have previously appropriated the Tenango designs, charging high prices for their products but failing to even acknowledge the source.

The artisans sell their handmade sweaters for between 700 and 800 pesos (US $37-42) but Mango, which has stores around the world, has priced their version at 1,599 pesos (US $84), or double the artisans’ price.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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