French brand Sézane apologizes after video in Mexico with Zapotec woman

The French brand Sézane apologized on Wednesday after a photo shoot and video with an elderly lady from an indigenous community that caused a scandal in Mexico, where current authorities say they are particularly sensitive to respect for indigenous peoples.

“I want to express my deep apologies for my mistakes,” wrote Sézane founder Morgane Sézalory.

An open investigation

His message in English was shared on Tuesday on le compte Instagram de l’ONG Extraordinary canvases, Who had already posted the video two days earlier. It shows an elderly indigenous woman, seated and wearing a green waistcoat, photographed by several young people who speak French, some of whom are laughing or not wearing a mask. The lady is then invited by a member of the team to sketch a few dance steps on the tube of Mary Hopkin Those were the days. The video was shot indefinitely in the southwestern state of Oaxaca and the lady is from the Zapotec community, sources in Mexico said.

The Parisian company has been accused of “manipulating, using and exhibiting elderly people of native peoples as part of its advertising”, in an official letterheaded statement from the Ministry of Culture and the National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination ( Conapred). The National Institute of Indigenous Peoples (INPI) also condemned “the exploitation of the image of indigenous people by the Sézane brand” and launched “an appeal to brands and private companies to stop using them. exploit indigenous and Afro-Mexican peoples and communities as cultural capital ”. In its press release, the official body announces an “investigation to act in accordance with the law”.

“Cultural appropriation”

The current nationalist left government has its sights set on international fashion brands which, according to the Mexican executive, plagiarize the motifs of indigenous crafts in their clothing lines. Mexico denounces a company of “cultural appropriation”. Another French designer, Isabel Marant, had already apologized in November 2020 after being accused of plagiarizing the designs of purepecha craftsmen for one of her coats.

Last November, the government organized meetings between international fashion brands (Isabel Marant, the Spanish Agatha Ruiz de la Prada…) and artisans from communities from all over the country. Mexico has 126 million inhabitants of which 7.3 million (6.1% of the population) speak an indigenous language, according to the last census of the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi) dating from 2021. And 2% of the population (2.57 million) identifies with the “Afro-Mexican” or “Afro-descendant” identity.

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