Cultural Appropriation: Ecuador vs. LOEWE
Jonathan Anderson, the head behind Loewe was interviewed by Vogue during the presentation of Spring 2018 Ready - To - Wear collection of the Spanish brand. (Mower, 2017) Even though the brand officially communicate that the inspiration for this collection come from different parts of the world, they forgot to mention specifically from what communities they took the elements they include in their clothing. Some of these elements are the Ecuadorian iconography of the Otavalo Culture which is located in the north part of the country.
People at Loewe may think they just got inspired by the figures but there is not too much difference from the original ones. That opens the question of ¿Where is the execution of design? fashion design is not only choosing color and fabrics, it implies investigation and the application of design theories or techniques. With all of these, it looks like Loewe design team did not do their homework. (Ordóñez, 2017)
The figures that are shown in the clothing represent the women of the Otavalo Culture according to the research made by Mendoza and Moncayo in 2012 called "Estudio Iconográfico de la Cultura Otavaleña en su Manifestación Gráfica Textil" (Iconographic Study of the Otavalo Culture in its Graphic Textile Manifestation). The authors of the study mentioned that this graphic is called "chismosas" (women who gossip) and refers to the moment when the women of that community gather together to spend time and gossip around. The figures portrait the long hair of the Otavalo women and the use of their traditional hat. The graphic is commonly weaved in bags, carpets, ponchos and more products.
As other cases in the fashion industry, this is a case of cultural appropriation, an act that the UN, the UNESCO and the World Intellectual Property Organization claim should be taken into account by the legal system.
“Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else's culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture's dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It's most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.” -Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University
Sometimes may be hard to take a legal action but the activism of the people can make magic, an example of this is when Tory Burch published a coat that looked exactly as one traditional Romanian Culture. The case went viral on social media thanks to the support of Romanian people resulting in the due apologies from Tory Burch to the Romanian community. Even though Ecuador is a small country we hope Loewe can be reached by its people to achieve social justice for the Otavalo Culture, a community that depends on their crafts to survive.
Please sign the petition.