MEXICO CITY — Zara on Wednesday removed a controversial new clutch from the Mexican market, bowing to pressure from angry consumers who accused it of launching a purse that looks exactly like those Mexicans use to carry groceries — but at a much higher price.
The social-media storm in which Mexicans accused the fast-fashion retailer of cultural appropriation and stealing the bag’s design from the typical, multicolored Mexican version came after similar claims have surfaced in recent years. Consequently, Mexico’s government launched a new law to protect the country’s cultural identity, as expressed by indigenous groups and communities “to avoid profiteering from their designs in what is known as ‘cultural appropriation.’”
The legislation calls for severe fines and even jail for brand executives found guilty of engaging in the activity.
Mexican fashion experts said Zara’s see-through clutch — called Striped Shopper Bag — was not copying or borrowing Mexican cultural references. But some Twitter users disagreed.
“This is a damned cultural appropriation,” vented one user amid a plethora of memes mocking the purse, some juxtaposing it with images of Mexican grandmothers carrying similar, yet worn-out versions selling for up to 40 pesos, or $1.75 at current exchange, versus Zara’s $30 version. “Do you realize this is a copy of hundreds of Mexican artisans’ work? Apart from this, the price. A humiliation for them as they are selling for 100 times more. At #Zara go to hell.”
Zara did not immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment. A company insider said the item was removed from Zara.com.mx, the company’s Mexican online portal where consumers spotted it for sale. It was not immediately clear whether the item is sold in Zara-labeled physical stores, of which there are about 100 in Mexico.
Daniel Herranz, who runs an emerging-designer platform in Mexico City and recently co-authored a Mexican fashion history book called “Hecha en Mexico (Made in Mexico),” defended Zara’s bag, which comes in yellow, green and orange colors, noting: “This is not cultural appropriation. This bag is not registered anywhere nor does it have any Mexican cultural protection. It’s a popular bag that could be from anywhere in Latin America.”
The retailer, however, has been accused of copy-cat designs before, including in 2018 when a group representing ethnic designers in Southern Chiapas State accused the brand of mirroring artisan embroideries in its blouses.