The wife of Mexico’s president on Thursday accused luxury American clothes brand Ralph Lauren of plagiarising indigenous designs, which she described as an appropriation of the work of the country’s pre-Hispanic cultures.
“Hey Ralph (Lauren): we already realised that you really like Mexican designs,” writer and researcher Beatriz Gutierrez said in an Instagram post. “However, by copying these designs you are committing plagiarism, which is illegal and immoral.”
The post shows a photo of a cardigan with colourful indigenous motifs hanging in a store. The label reads Ralph Lauren.
Ralph Lauren said it was “surprised” to learn the product was still being sold, after issuing a directive to remove it from its channels after discovering it some months previously.
“We are deeply sorry this happened and, as always, we are open to dialogue about how we can do better,” it said in a statement.
The US fashion retailer has pledged that all new products using indigenous designs following its summer 2023 season will be created under a model of “credit and collaboration”.
Reuters found the garment currently selling online for hundreds of dollars.
“Hopefully you repair the damage to the original communities that do this work with love and not for profit,” Gutierrez added, attributing the designs to the indigenous communities of Contla and Saltillo.
President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador has launched an intense campaign to reclaim relics of Mexico’s pre-Columbian heritage since taking office in 2018, including lodging complaints against auction houses in the United States and Europe, and recovering dozens of Mexican antiques.
In July, the Mexican government also asked Chinese fashion retailer Shein to explain its use of indigenous Mayan elements in one of its pieces, causing it to remove the garment from its website.
The government has made similar complaints against France’s Louis Vuitton, Venezuelan designer Carolina Herrera, Spain’s Zara and US retailer Anthopologie.