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Romania confronts Vuitton for “stealing” his beloved blouse | World news

Residents of the village of Vaideeni, in the foothills of the Romanian Carpathians, are furious with French luxury brand Louis Vuitton for “stealing” the design of their traditional blouse.

Romania confronts Vuitton for “stealing” his beloved blouse

Maria Gioanca, 69, one of two dozen women in the village who still hand-sew the black-and-white outfits, told AFP she “would not let the costume be stolen” and used in elegant beachwear.

In recent years, there have been increasing calls for luxury brands to acknowledge the inspiration behind their designs, as the fashion industry grapples with accusations of cultural appropriation and exploiting the heritage of minority groups.

In Romania, activist group La Blouse Roumaine has been calling on brands since 2017 to openly talk about their roots and provide sources of origin if their clothes are similar to or inspired by Romanian folk costumes.

Their complaints, dedicated to promoting the traditional “ie” blouse that inspired fashion designers such as Yves Saint-Laurent, Jean Paul Gaultier and Kenzo, have yielded mixed results.

At Vaideeni, many of the seamstresses had never heard of Louis Vuitton, but they immediately noticed the similarity to traditional “ie” blouses when they saw a photo of the French brand’s white linen blouse embroidered with black motifs from the new “LV by the Pool” collection.

“Why make fun of our stuff?” said Ioana Staniloiu, 76, mocking the blouse, created by star designer Nicolas Ghesquiere and advertised on the Louis Vuitton website as “flowing” and having a “fresh, boho look.”

“Combined with our blouse, this one is ugly,” she said.

La Blouse Roumaine founder Andreea Tanasescu, accusing the French company of “violating the cultural rights of local communities”, said people felt offended that a blouse traditionally worn for special occasions was being used as beachwear.

“You have to be very careful… It would be better if you go and talk to the community, spend time there,” the former casting director, 49, told AFP, adding that fashion could help “protect and promote cultural heritage” if the swap were to happen.

Romania’s culture minister asked the company last month to recognise its heritage.

Louis Vuitton declined to comment to AFP but confirmed media reports that the company had apologised to Romania and stopped selling the blouse.

The blouse is reportedly no longer listed on the brand’s website, and 20 unsold blouses have been put on the shelf.

In the past, La Blouse Roumaine convinced American designer Tory Burch to change the description of a coat, pointing to its Romanian inspiration. They have not received any response from Dior on a similar matter.

According to textile specialist Florika Zaharia, Romanian traditional costumes and fabrics are distinguished by their “unique, particular aesthetics”, noting the “discretion and elegance” of the blouses.

“There is beauty that we cannot ignore,” said Zaharia, who opened the first textile museum in Romania in 2018 after almost 30 years working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

But critics say the controversy is not helping communities save dying professions.

According to Horatiu Ilea, curator of the Romanian Peasant Museum, it is like “washing dirty linen in public”, adding that the “only thing” that could help is for young people to learn the craft.

Although the method of creating a Romanian blouse was included on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2022, there is no patent for it, and even among the same group of seamstresses, different styles occur.

In Vaideeni, some women have recently started practicing the profession they learned from their elders, but it is not easy.

It takes at least a month to sew a blouse that costs around 300–400 euros, but they don’t sell like hot cakes.

“I am a little scared, but we will not give up,” said Staniloiu, whose daughter and four granddaughters have left the village to seek work elsewhere.

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Christian Dior

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