Plagiarism in Fashion

In the News these days; the ongoing story on copying traditional costumes by fashion designers (read; fashion industry). Nothing new about that news we hear you say, this has been done for decades and decades. True! Copying, or being inspired, anything from anywhere is pretty standard in the fashion (and in any other design) industry. (We, at Mimi Berlin file this under; Where Abraham got the mustard; which is a literally translated Dutch proverb meaning that “someone is aware of something”; In our case Mimi Berlin knows and shows. But that’s an other story…..) In January 2015 trending topic on Twitter was #miblusadetlahui That hashtag was about fashion designer’s who copied Native Crafts, in particular; a blouse from Isabel Marant for Spring 2015. Ok, back to the News; an issue going on since January 2015; Antik Batik had a copyright battle with Isabel Marant over a blouse. The design of this blouse is quite similar to the one, worn for over centuries, by the Mixe community in Oaxaca, Mexico. The Mixe in their turn accused Marant and Antk Batik of plagiarism of the embroidered blouses (starting with #miblusadetlahui and continuing up to now, November 2015, but getting too complicated and boring (it’s not news) for us too describe so read about that on vogue.co.uk and wearemitu.com.) The fact that the Mixe community took action is the noteworthy part of this story; people who start claiming their own heritage! That’s something we haven’t noticed in copyright battles over fashion designs before, usually it’s just one company sueing another company. An other example of citizens claiming their heritage is the case between the Canadian Nunavut family (spokesperson Salome Awa) and the British fashion label Kokon To Zai. The Nunavut family claim that his caribou skin suit or sweater is an exact copy of their relative’s shaman Ava’s sacred garment made to offer spiritual protection, was made without their permission. They are certaily right about the similarity….the clothes have been removed from some stores. The attention for this case is less visible in the media, we think because of Kokon To Zai is not as well known as Isabel Marant is. (read more about this here at cbc.ca) Finally we get to hear from the people who came up with the designs in the first place, (the industry is getting “a cookie of their own dough”)

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