Draw inspiration, not appropriation!

While perusing my social media networks I stumbled upon a change.org petition called, ‘Nanette Lepore: Stop appropriating traditional Fijian designs and motifs and calling it “Aztec”.  Being a Pasifika female of Tongan descent I’m really sensitive to the misuse and misrepresentation of my Pasifika community.  So naturally this headline drew me in.   I’ve known Nanette Lepore for being one of America’s leading fashion designers and contributors to the American fashion persona with her signature ‘artsy boho-chic’ aesthetic.

After reading the petition and it’s charge against Lepore of, ” it is FRAUD and Lepore has absolutely NO RIGHT to use my traditional cultural design for her clothing and calling it something it is NOT…”  The claim centered around a fashion spread that Women’s Health Magazine featured in June of this year called ‘Passport to Style’.  In the feature pieces from Lepore’s Summer collection are showcased with the subtitle, “AFRICAN”.  The dress shown below (taken directly from Nanette Lepore’s facebook page) is called the “AZTEC Dress” and this specific print is littered throughout Lepore’s entire Summer collection (also featured here).


Lepore’s entire design aesthetic is centered around bold colors, evocative prints and her signature silhouettes.  So to stake the claim that one of her prints is counterfeited is a pretty hefty claim.  Now in taking a closer look at the print that Lepore refers to as “AZTEC” and comparing it side by side with 15 traditional cultural motifs that are used in Fijian Masi Designs it is pretty hard not to draw the same conclusion that the the author of the change.org petition Kat Lobendahn came to: Nanette Lepore appropriated traditional Fijian Masi Designs in her Summer 2013 collection (don’t the Kaso, Uga, Tama, and Rova motifs look strikingly similar to the elements Lepore is using in her “AZTEC” print?).


While it is not uncommon in the fashion industry for designers to draw inspiration for their work it is quite another to blatantly copy another artists’ work and qualify it all under the umbrella of ‘inspiration’.  What is even more disappointing is the fact that Lepore does not even acknowledge the cultural heritage that she appropriated her designs from.


One Thought on “Draw inspiration, not appropriation!

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