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DIGITIZING ETHNIC TEXTILES ENDANGERS ARTISANS

Let’s campaign against digitized indigenous textiles.

ST. FRANK is a global, sourcing textile company based in San Francisco, CA. They source from low and middle-income countries… and they describe themselves as ETHICAL LUXURY, which I find really upsetting. Their markup is outrageous, by far exceeding what they paid the original author.

The new era of digital printing needs to be examined. The current system of textile production supports the mass consumption of cheap goods and if this trend continues, it will inevitably lead to the abuse and misuse of original traditional textiles to be reproduced with little or no transformation applied to them. The problem is global and we need to establish ethical parameters for the application of such technology. The problem emerges again when traditional embroideries e.g. Mexican or Guatemalan are send abroad and reinterpreted in countries such as India or China.

Digital Technology is changing the face of textile design. The development of digital printing onto fabric is changing printing methods and removing restrictions, allowing designers to work with thousands of colors and create designs with high level of detail at faster print timescales. This technique is currently being employed in fashion, interior design and home furnishings industries.

There is a misconception that traditional cultural expressions are part of the public domain, they are not, they are specialized forms of knowledge that have not been protected by intellectual property rights only because Intellectual Property was not conceptualized to cover knowledge that belonged to communities and was transmitted orally.

Traditional Cultural Expressions are very much linked to place and historical context and people of the place, and the custodians of TCEs need to be fully acknowledged. TCEs are intellectual property and need to be treated as such by all those using them.

Through the use of digital technologies, profitable fashion brands, patent, copyright, and trademark something which has served them as an inspiration for a number of currently protected intellectual property works.

Such is the case of PINEDA COVALIN, a high end Mexican brand, has been digitizing traditional textiles since 1995 and registering them as trademarks. The textiles are printed in silk via China, basically hijacking Mexican artisans patrimony.

The vast majority of designers are basically unaware of this and we need to develop an ethical fashion criteria and responsible standards to work with cultural archetypes.

The quest is to REGULATE AND RESTRICT the FASHION AND TEXTILE industry from digitizing ethnic textiles. If you care about the future of traditional textiles, crafts and artisans livelihoods, please, do not support this kind of businesses.

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