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Jackets with Mazatec boradoes.
Jackets with Mazatec designs. Photo: EFE

Mexico denounces cultural appropriation by Levi's

Levi's is accused of cultural appropriation for using designs of Indigenous Oaxacan artisans in its garments without consent or compensation.

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This is not the first time Mexico has confronted major brands in defense of its cultural heritage; we have previously seen the country sue brands such as Zara, Anthropologie, Patowl and Carolina Herrera for the use of Indigenous artisan designs without the proper consent of the communities. 

This time, the Mexican Ministry of Culture has complained to Levi's about the appropriation of Mazatec textiles in its new collection of pants and jackets. The claim is that the company has not given credit to the artisans who are dedicated to the design of this type of embroidery.

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The collection in question is the one made in collaboration with Draco Tradición Textil, Rótulos Bautista and designer Sarai Silva, in which "techniques such as embroidery, hand-painted illustration and hand lettering by artisans" from Tuxtepec, the Mixteca region and the Valles Centrales region were used.

"The weaving hands of Mexico's millenary culture make their way to show the world their way of understanding it through their designs and creations. Never again a 'tribute' without them."

Alejandra Frausto of Mexico's Ministry of Culture, denounces how the designs copy "embroidered elements belonging to the Mazatec culture of the community of San Felipe, Jalapa de Diaz" and this constitutes a violation of articles 157, 158, 159, 160 and 161 of Mexico's Federal Copyright Law, which protect literary, artistic, folk art and handcraft works of popular cultures, or expressions of traditional cultures.

According to the Mexican government, Levi's has not complied with the principles of protection included in the aforementioned regulations, since they have altered the designs, do not give credit to the creative communities, and have not paid any remuneration for the use of their creations. At the moment, the company has not made a statement, but the Draco Textil collective has published an acknowledgement of the work of the Oaxacan artisans with whom it worked for the collection.

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