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Mexico concerned by Chinese retailer Shein’s use of a Mayan design

(Source: Reuters/Dado Ruvic)

Mexico has questioned the use of cultural elements from the Mayan indigenous community by Chinese fast fashion company Shein in the design of one of its garments, prompting the retailer to remove the product from its website.

The Culture Ministry said some details of Shein’s “Fan-Trim Top with Floral Print” were similar to a traditional huipil embroidery made in 2017 by an artisanal clothing brand from southeastern Mexico.

“These designs have been passed down from generation to generation, so they are the product of a collective creativity corresponding to the Mayan people,” the ministry said in a letter to the company.

Shein, a fast-growing online store that has considered a New York listing, said on Thursday it had removed the product from its website and that it has no intention of infringing anyone’s intellectual property.

“We reaffirm our respect for artisans in Mexico and around the world,” a Shein spokesperson said via email.

Mexican brand Yucachulas, responsible for the original piece, said on social media it was “deeply saddened” by what it called plagiarism.

“It represents a lack of recognition for the work of artisans who dedicate themselves to this job and make their living from handicrafts.”

The Mexican government has called in the past for large foreign firms to explain instances of what it says is commercial exploitation of distinctive elements of Mexico’s culture in their products.

  • Report by Lizbeth Díaz. Writing by Noe Torres and Gabriel Araujo. Editing by Frances Kerry and Bernadette Baum, of Reuters.

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