The Mexican government has taken offense to some designs used by luxury fashion label Carolina Herrera, and accused the brand of exploiting its people through cultural appropriation.

What are the details?

According to the BBC, Mexico’s cultural minister, Alejandra Frausto, sent a letter to the company this week informing its designers “that some of the patterns used in the (2020 Resort) collection are unique to certain regions of Mexico and their indigenous peoples, and asked whether these communities would benefit in any way from the sale of the clothes.”

Secretary Frausto also reportedly asked the brand to issue a public explanation for how its designers came to use the patterns in question.

Reuters reported that Mexico is concerned over four garments featured in the collection, that they say use unique traditional designs lifted from its culture. The Carolina Herrera website markets the style as evoking “the playful and colorful mood of a Latin holiday.”

A spokesman for the fashion firm’s Venezuelan-born namesake told the Associated Press the design house recognizes Mexican artists’ work, and that its resort collection was inspired “by the culture’s rich colours and artisanal techniques.”

Anything else?

The New York Times reported the hubbub as being “the latest example in a series of fashion wake-up calls,” citing a litany of recent cases where luxury clothing purveyors have been taken to task for designs paying homage to certain cultures. This is the first time, however, that a government has gotten involved in such an issue.

Cultural appropriation often involves accusations of disrespecting a group of people through stereotyping. In the instance of Carolina Herrera 2020 Resort Collection, however, the brand is also being hit with claims of plagiarism from the Mexican culture ministry, and they could be forced to pay up.

El Universal reported that the country has formed the Mexican Institute of Intellectual Property, allowing artisans to register their brands and designs to assist in the possibility of recourse in instances of suspected plagiarism by clothing companies. Other international brands such as Nestle and Hermes have already been hit with legal challenges from Mexico-based artisans.

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