Fashion photographer Saul Endara is denouncing the use of an Ecuadorian image by the European fashion label, Loewe. Endara claims that the image which appears on two products in Loewe’s spring collection is almost identical to one produced by Otavalo weavers in northern Ecuador.
The image is a rear view of two women wearing white indigenous braids and pony tails, wearing white hats. Endara says the same art appears on tapestries, ponchos and bags sold in Otavalo and rightly belongs to the culture which produced it.
Designer Miguel Moyano supports Endara’s claim. “This is an appropriation of intellectual rights. Loewe’s is taking iconography that belongs to an indigenous culture and using it for commercial purposes,” he says.
Moyano sees another problem: “The people from the cultures where the images are taken receive no economic benefit from the use of the art. These ethnic groups have been, in general, oppressed and exploited by hegemonic groups.”
This is not the first case of “cultural appropriation” by the fashion industry.
In 2015, French designer Isabel Marant launched a line of clothing using indigenous Mexican images. A Mexican state filed a complaint and the designer apologized and acknowledged that the source of inspiration for these dresses was a community near Oaxaca.