Fashion brands Zara and Anthropologie accused of cultural appropriation of indigenous Mexican communities

ITV News Correspondent Geraint Vincent breaks down the ministry's argument, along with the brands' responses

Fashion brands Zara, Anthropologie and Patowl have been accused of cultural appropriation by Mexico for using patterns created by indigenous communities in their designs.

In an open letter, Mexico's cultural ministry claim the brands had taken inspiration from indigenous groups without compensating them.

Mexico's Ministry of Culture said in a statement on Friday that it had sent letters signed by Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto to all three global companies, asking each for a "public explanation on what basis it could privatise collective property".

The ministry said Zara had used patterns created in the south-western state of Oaxaca and that they should be compensated accordingly.

They said the dress "takes elements of the Mixtec culture, from the municipality of San Juan Colorado, Oaxaca, where the traditional huipil is part of the identity of the women, who make each canvas from raw materials".

Mexico says the fashion brands are using designs which are part of Mixtec culture in Oaxaca. Credit: AP

The statement says the pattern "reflects ancestral symbols related to the environment, history and worldview of the community. Each huipil takes at least one month of work to make."

In a statement from Zara's owners Inditex, the company said: "The design in question was in no way intentionally borrowed from or influenced by the artistry of the Mixtec people of Mexico."

The dress appears to be no longer for sale on the website.

Anthropologie, owned by URBN used a design developed by the indigenous Mixe community of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, according to the Ministry of Culture.

The Patowl top was "a faithful copy of the traditional clothing of the Zapotec indigenous people of the community of San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca" they said.

URBN and US fashion brand Patowl have not responded to requests for comment, although the item - a pair of shorts - appeared to have been removed from Anthropologie's website on Wednesday.

It comes as model Kendall Jenner has faced criticism - again - of cultural appropriation after she posted images from a commercial she was filming in Mexico for her 818 Tequila brand on Instagram.

Ms Jenner disabled comments on her behind-the-scenes social media images that showed her on horse wearing jeans and an oversized shirt, her hair plaited and a cowboy hat slung around her neck.

In 2017, Ms Jenner was forced to apologise after starring in a Pepsi advert in which she joined a protest before offering a can of the drink to a police officer who smiles.

Pepsi apologised for 'missing the mark'. Credit: YouTube

Pepsi pulled the advert and apologised for “missing the mark”.

This is not the first time Mexico has accused fashion brands of exploiting the country's indigenous communities.

In 2019, the Mexican government accused fashion house Carolina Herrera of using indigenous patterns and textiles in its collection.

Herrera’s creative director Wes Gordon at time reportedly said that the collection “pays tribute to the richness of Mexican culture.”

In the same year, Gucci apologised for a wool sweater after complaints that it resembled blackface make-up, and said the item had been pulled from its online and physical stores.