The Women Weavers of southern Mexico
Organized by: Eme Laculturadoc
Who owns culture? What is the right way to do business with historically vulnerable groups, who have always been exploited since colonial times, even more so now that fast fashion has resulted in unfair and dangerous working conditions. Cultural appropriation - otherwise known as plagiarizing – is what top designers have been doing lately, becoming “inspired” by traditional textile designs in southern Mexico, and putting them into their own collections and on the runway, without permission or credit to the original makers of these pre-Hispanic designs, which are mostly indigenous women artisans, who are losing out on big profits in the international markets. According to the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, the Artisan’s sector is the second largest employer in the developing world; and while some designers work as social entrepreneurs, bridging the divide for artisans living in remote villages to gain access to a $32 billion industry; other designers, mostly high end, are stealing designs, having them mass produced in China, without giving any credit or compensation, to the original creators of the designs. Our story occurs within the clash of two worlds, where the fast paced business of fashion in international cities like New York meets life in remote communities of artisans located in the highlands of southern Mexico. Within this context, issues of cultural appropriation, globalization, and the commodifying of culture are explored. The relationship between artisans and designers is examined, as new ways of doing business are being created by community liaisons and local designers that are mutually beneficial, creating platforms for sustainable development, and ultimately satisfying one of the four pillars of long term sustainable development; environment, social, economic, and culture.