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CULTURAL MISAPPROPRIATION IN THE ERA OF ETHICAL FASHION

At the recent Textile Society of America Symposium my panel addressed the topic of “Conflict, Appropriation and Certification for Artisan Production”, where I presented “CULTURAL MISAPPROPRIATION IN THE ERA OF ETHICAL FASHION”.

My quest is to regulate and restrict the fashion and textile industry from digitizing ethnic textiles including the imitation of traditional embroideries made in other countries through cheaper techniques.

Technology is driving the market and digital printing allows for the misappropriation of ethnic textiles at a fast pace, without proper recognition or compensation, the custodians of these crafts will find themselves replaced by a new generation of printed textiles. We need to develop an ethical fashion criteria and responsible standards to work with cultural archetypes. In particular, designers need apply conscience and respect when finding inspiration in other cultures heritage.

The wonderful series of events were coordinated by Elena Phipps, the last President in turn, and took place at UCLA, Fowler Museum, LACMA and The Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, CA.

My abstract:

CULTURAL MISAPPROPRIATION IN THE ERA OF ETHICAL FASHION

Cultural appropriation happens every day in the world of fashion and is framed around the acts of borrowing, sharing and being inspired by other cultures. The key issue of concern is the commercial use of cultural property that fails to share the benefits or acknowledge the custodians of what can be called “Traditional Cultural Expressions”. This tension was most recently expressed through the response of those in South Pacific cultural heritage circles to a Nanette Lepore dress design (RST 2013). Lepore used a design that was based on traditional tapa and masi (bark cloth) patterns from the South Pacific, however, she labeled it as an Aztec dress. This blatant mistake underscores the lack of research and integrity that can be found in fashion companies today when sourcing inspiration for their designs. In this paper I will address the lack of cultural sensitivity and aloofness displayed by fashion designers when it comes to addressing their sources of inspiration and the technologies that enable this. While the latest technologies and global trade allows brands to digitize and print original textiles quickly and efficiently, the problem reemerges when traditional embroideries e.g. Mexican or Guatemalan are sent abroad and reinterpreted in countries such as India or China rendering a cheaper version by hand or machine. I believe the current technologies will allow for certain misuse and abuse of indigenous designs and assert that it is crucial to protect artisans and their cultural heritage. The new era of digital printing needs to be examined and intellectual cultural property protection put into place. Sadly, it is a global issue and we need to establish ethical parameters based on the premise that more should be done to apply consciousness and respect when finding inspiration in other cultures’ heritage.

Some of my slides

TSA presentation

Awards Banquet Dinner

TSA dinner

TSA Marketplace

TSA1

Amazing presentations!

TSA 2

Surrounded by indigo textiles, artists and experts…

INdigo TSa

Closing party at the Folk Art Museum

TSa party

With Elise and Caleb

TSA Caleb

Stay tuned..

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