May 19, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

London Fashion Week designer rips off Maori designs #LFW

3 min read Eds: In the continuing war on Maori IP protection we came across the following article and OF COURSE they are at it again, but this time under the guise of “ottoman empire” inspired tribal fashion designs, which are in fact clearly a blatant rip off of Maori kowhaiwhai and koru designs. SERIOUSLY???

Turkish designer’s Gul Agis’s 2nd collection at this year’s London Fashion week continues a long tradition of cultural misappropriation. Remember for their age the Greeks were brilliant at colonising outlying areas (key word here, Alexander the Great) so sigh… it’s not really surprising is it.

What is surprising though is that the London/Paris blog, Fashion Scout, should really know better, they literally salivated while describing the cultural theft as “decadent, luxurious and lavish” and went on to say that it was inspired by rich Turkish heritage and culture, along with a multiplicity of Turkish political issues, Gul’s collection aims to arouse and provoke international interest,”REALLY? So OK, MAYBE they were talking about the other pieces of this collection, but a quick look at the images below show something completely different.

Clearing Fashion Scout knows little to nothing about indigenous design let along Maori design or fashion. Can you say HOHA? 🙁


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Turkish designer Gul Agis’s well-received second collection at London Fashion Week, Tribal Attitude, is said to have been inspired by Turkey’s rich heritage; by the Gezi Park protests that took place in Istanbul earlier this year and by “the tribal attitudes in expressing anger within”.

While some of the pieces from the Spring/Summer ’14 collection of label Lug Von Siga did take clear inspiration from the plush textiles of the Ottoman Empire and Turkey, the predominant style in the textile design was undeniably Maori.

Black, white and red whakairo-style patterns, from koru to moko, dominated the high-fashion looks. Yet there was no mention of the Aotearoa connection to the collection, which the Daily Mail called one of the shows of the week to watch.

“It had a jungle feel thanks to liberal use of zebra print and some well-executed tribal totem print,” the paper said of the show.

London/Paris blog Fashion Scout called the collection “decadent, luxurious and lavish”.

“Inspired by rich Turkish heritage and culture, along with a multiplicity of Turkish political issues, Gul’s collection aims to arouse and provoke international interest,” said Fashion Scout.

“The focus of the collection has definitively tribal origins. Initially starting by working with tribal masks, Gul developed the unique mask-style prints into her garment fabrications, through the use of appliqu techniques, leather, and sheer silks amongst other futuristic fabrics,” the blog added.

The Style Confessional blog said that “it was refreshing to see the cultural influences of the Turkish designer’s hometown through the rich prints and fabric manipulation.” Adding that it was their “favourite show of the day.”

The only person to make even a vague connection between the pieces and Maori design was the show’s hair stylist, Efi Davies from Toni&Guy, who spoke to Fashion Scout’s beauty blogger Madeleine Ayers.

“The inspiration basically comes from looking at the collection; there is a lot of tribal inspiration, a bit of mari [sic]. The prints are beautiful and yet they maintain a very feminine cut between the lines.”

The designer, Gul Agis, has been contacted for comment.

New Zealand is a pioneer in protecting the authenticity and quality of indigenous art through the Toi Iho trademark, which was established in 2002.

12 thoughts on “London Fashion Week designer rips off Maori designs #LFW

  1. Wowww this ‘Gul Agis’ & her whole fashion crew & bloggers or whatever they want to call themselves are all ignorant IDIOTS..Any person with eyes knows that thats Maori, you could take these patterns to any corner of the world & its recognizable. She probably thinks the All Blacks are a gymnastic team from Brazil! Since when did koru stand for ‘turkish politics’? or our kowhaiwhai stand for ‘rich turkish heritage’? Everything down to the feather details on the hem of the dress is Maori. If this woman was sincere she should’ve acknowledged Aotearoa at the start of the show & in every interview, photo etc., i highly doubt any $$$ she makes from our designs will be put back into our Marae’s. I’m studying my fashion diploma at uni so as a young moari girl soon to be designer this makes me so angry i could go on to write a frigin book.!!

  2. First Nike with the Samoan Patterns and now this? at least Nike acknowledged Samoa right? this is just down right rude! The designer should be sued or something! smh. Im not Maori, Im Samoan, but being bought up in New Zealand makes me proud to have connections with these Maori patters, and it’s just unacceptable.

  3. Admittedly the designer not being able to accurately cite the source of the designs is culturally irresponsible. But I’m sorry, exactly WHOSE intellectual property are these designs? Every single person of Maori descent? Some select tribes? One person? Don’t think so. Remember how popular “Hawaiian” shirts were in the 90s? The visual aesthetics associated with different cultures are constantly being appropriated and transformed by others it’s part of the global world we live in. It’s the same with dance, performance, and literature. Do we have to think of it as stealing?

    1. I think we can safely say that a shirt with a whole lot of hisbiscus’ or ‘hawaii themed’ objects on them arent necessarily the cultural patterns of the Indigenous people of Hawaii.

      And yes, these patterns probably are the Intellectual Property of a Maori iwi or community, so they could have been consulted lest it be stealing. The bigger problem is what you said yourself the designer couldnt even make the connection to where her patterns came from. How can you be considered credible if you cant even do that.

  4. Kia Ora: I have found while living over seas for almost 40 years that the times are changing faster than we can handle. I understand the frustration of our Maori designers and people but my answer to you all is get over it and move on move faster and perpetuate only what is good in our culture. The world has been using our Haka our music our ta mokos for years, the challenge for us is to understand that the Haka is entertainment to the world but to us it is whakapapa it is our History. It is who we are, CNN did a report on a team and declared to the world that the Haka was a Tongan war dance. The Native Americans tell the legend of The Eagle:

    “The Eagle once ruled our skies and one day he was struck down by an arrow. As he lay dying he could not understand why. For the shaft of the arrow had been feathered by one of his own plumes.

    We often give our enemies the means to our own defeat. Look inside ask your heart, the Truth may sleep but it never dies

    However the Eagle still flies, there is still time.

    Remember A wise warrior forces his enemy to fight at the time and place of HIS choosing.

    Be Like the Warrior and Choose your own time and place. Kia Kaha

    1. Thanks Susanne. You are of course ‘correct’. I urge all designers from New Zealand (all creeds) to rise up and channel and push New Zealand Art forms more now than ever before. Mitch.


  6. These so called bloggers and fashionista’s are so full of it but there seems to be nothing in the “it”. Designers offer no originality so they steal from others. Show me anything in Turkey that represents what obviously is Maori that is printed on their clothing.

    I hope someone takes them to task for this, make it known all over facebook or other media outlets how ridiculous they really are.

      1. She has posted this on her facebook page: “lug von siga collection is a tribal approach inspired by rich culture of Maori/New Zealand..We used many masks and wood carvings as a reference in order to express our anger within”

  7. The global fashion world is full of thieves , always has been. Without culture they steal from others culture In the name of fashion. The travesty here is that they call it there own culture. We are a long way from educating such fashionista fools, bur we have to start now. Maori,s defend your art and culture with a vengeance, that only you can do with your royal presence!

  8. How appalling….
    Not only is the misguided designer a moron but all those dumb fashionista bloggers better start widening their Prada eyewears….
    It is sad seeing IP history repeat itself….. Again .

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