Carolina Herrera Comes Under Fire With Accusations of Cultural Appropriation

Carolina Herrera is the latest label to get called out for cultural appropriation. The brand's Resort 2020 collection, overseen by current creative director Wes Gordon, features Mexican-inspired textiles and floral embroidery, but there's no acknowledgment that the details and patterns draw from traditional techniques and designs. The Mexican government claims that two motifs are being used in an inappropriate way and demands that the brand "publicly explain on what basis it decided to make use of these cultural elements, whose origins are documented, and how this benefits the [Mexican] communities."

Reuters reports that the Mexican culture ministry contacted both Herrera herself and Gordon. A letter stated that the National Regeneration Movement, the current party in power, planned on passing legislation "to protect indigenous communities from plagiarism and having their work used by others without receiving fair compensation."

The two designs in question include floral embroidery known as Istmo de Tehuantepec and a striped pattern called Saltillo Sarape. Each design is used on two different pieces from the Carolina Herrera Resort 2020 collection.

"We feel obliged to draw attention to this and start a public conversation about an urgent matter that features on the United Nations 2030 agenda for sustainable development," the ministry's letter read.

Susana Harp, a senator for the National Regeneration Movement in Mexico, said that the designs in question, which include maxi and cocktail dresses, were created "without permission, respect, or economic retribution" for the communities that produced the recognizable patterns.

In a statement released by Carolina Herrera, Gordon said that his intention for the season was to honor the Mexican heritage and handwork that he witnessed during a recent trip.

"My admiration for Mexican artisanal work has been growing over the years, most recently through my trip to the country," the statement reads. "With this new collection, I endeavored to honor this magnificent cultural heritage."

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Solidarity with Mexico ?? . We ask @carolinaherrera to #GiveCredit and compensate the Saltillo Sarape artisans from Mexico. Please share this campaign and help us to end up the cultural appropiation in fashion. . "Colorful striped Mexican Saltillo blankets have long been prized for both their beauty and their high level of functionality. All they way back to the 1500s, the Aztecs were wearing colorful blankets created out of cotton and agave fibers, and dyed bright colors using the crushed fruits and insects.  It was believed at the time that wearing bright colors both brought favors from the gods, and kept evil spirits at bay.  The blankets were originally woven in the town of Saltillo, in what is now the state of Coahuila."

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Solidarity with Mexico ?? . We ask @carolinaherrera to #GiveCredit and compensate the Mexican artisans from Tenango de Doria. Please share this campaign and help us to end up the cultural appropiation in fashion. Photos – Carolina Herrera Resort 2020 – Traditional tenango piece embroidered by artisan Elvira Clemente Gomez at her home in Santa Monica, Tenango de Doria, Hidalgo, Mexico. . Tenango is a style of embroidery which originated in the Tenango de Doria municipality in the Mexican state of Hidalgo. It is a commercialized version of traditional Otomi embroidery, which was developed in the 1960s in response to an economic crisis. It is estimated at over 1,200 artisans practice the craft in Tenango de Doria and the neighborhing municipality of San Bartolo Tutotepec. . . @viernestradicional @ngoimpacto #carolinaherrera #culturalappropriation #mexico

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Herrera, who is Venezuelan, claimed that she is "one of the main emissaries of the Latin spirit around the world" in the same statement. In the show notes for the collection, the brand said that inspiration for the pieces came from "the playful and colorful mood of a Latin holiday."

The Cut adds that this is the first time that "a government agency" has involved itself in legal proceedings over appropriation. Recently, Marc Jacobs faced similar criticism for featuring dreadlocks in a fashion show and Gucci had a turban pulled from retailers after it faced claims of cultural appropriation as well.

InStyle has reached out to Carolina Herrera for more information.

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