Mexico City, Mexico — The Ralph Lauren Company issued a statement of apology after being accused of plagiarism by the first lady of Mexico. In their October 20th letter, the fashion company said they were surprised to learn the product was being sold.
“We are surprised to learn that this product is being sold. When our team discovered months ago that this was in our product pipeline, we issued a stern directive to remove the item from all channels. We are conducting an urgent audit to determine how this item landed on a sales floor after that directive and ensure it is removed immediately.
“In June, we announced that any new product featuring traditional Indigenous design motifs following our Summer 2023 season will be created under a model of credit and collaboration, which we are piloting through our Artist in Residence program with intentions to scale it in the future.
“As we continue this effort, we are deepening our mandatory cultural awareness training and continuing to expand our work with Indigenous communities. We approach this journey with humility and, above all, with dignity and respect for Indigenous communities.
We are deeply sorry this happened and, as always, we are open to dialogue about how we can do better,” their statement read.
The letter was issued after Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller, the First Lady of Mexico, accused the American fashion chain of plagiarism for selling a clothing item that allegedly copied indigenous Mexican designs.
In an Instagram post, Gutiérrez shared an image of a long garment that had similar patterns to that of the indigenous Mexican design, which hung in a store with a Ralph Lauren label.
She said the brand liked designs inspired by indigenous textile traditions, but added that “copying” these patterns was “incurring in plagiarism”, something she described as “illegal and immoral”.
Gutiérrez, who is a writer and researcher, added that this particular article appropriated the design of the garments worn by the peoples of Contla and Saltillo, and asked for compensation for the indigenous communities.
Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto added her own criticism, calling it a case of “cultural appropriation.”