Madewell has joined the ranks of brands guilty of cultural appropriation.
Several Latinx vendors reached out to ShopLatinx with the same Instagram post, showing how Madewell stole an original Oaxacan design and used factories in China to produce it, with no reference or credit to the original artisans. We spoke with a few of our vendors, including Luis Aguilar of @mercado_la who created the original post calling Madewell out.
“Mercado LA started because of the love I have for my cultura,” says Aguilar. “Each design is so unique and is never the same because the artisans who make them in San Antonino Oaxaca don’t have a stencil or anything like this.They hand draw the design, or as they call them ‘pensamientos’, onto the fabric and then began the embroidery process which can take them up to a month depending on the piece and the intricacy.”
When Aguilar began working with these artisans, he paid them more than what they asked in addition to sharing 25% of their profits as a way to assure they were paid fairly for their work and to thank them for their art.
“For us it has always been about putting them at the forefront which is why we feature them on our tags so that our customer could meet the women who make these pieces. So for us to see these major brands copy the exact same blouse and embroidery it is heartbreaking and a slap on the face because A) it is not handmade and B) it’s made in China.”
Valeria Alonso, owner of @nopalco, called herself “a huge Madewell fan” until she came across their embroidered springtime top in true black. She purchases textile fabrics from Mexico and instantly recognized the design from the work she sells and from spending time in Oaxaca.
“Madewell and others have knocked off the embroidery and begun to produce it in China,” she told us over Instagram. “It’s so important for people to be properly educated about the embroidery and where it comes from. Each stitch, hem, and cut, [is] uniquely refined by generations of artisans from the central valleys of Oaxaca. We need to value the time, effort, culture and the meaning behind not only this artisanal work but all artisanal work from the around the world.”
Major labels such as Forever 21, Anthropologie, and Urban Outfitters are often guilty of stealing designs from indigenous and POC artisans and typically face few repercussions. But the online activism community has grown louder over the years and social media makes it easy to spread a callout like wildfire. With enough outrage, labels have taken down designs and apologized but we must be diligent in maintaining the liability of the fashion world.
“We need to hold these brands accountable which is why we are encouraging our followers to repost our post and tag both Madewell and Nordstrom.” Insisted Aguilar, “We have to use social media to fight the big dogs.”