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Ethiopia - Anger over African designs
By Hewete Haileselassie
Matthew Williamson, the clothing designer to the stars, has become embroilled in an unfashionable row over some of his new dress designs.
He has included two outfits based on traditional Ethiopian dresses in his latest collection prompting the government of the African country to investigate how it can protect its national costume from his attentions.
The dresses are replicas of those that are a staple in most Ethiopian women's wardrobes, sparking outrage in the country's online community. In a Facebook group dedicated to the issue almost a thousand members debate the morality of borrowing a country's national costume, especially when that country is one of the poorest in the world.
Traditional Ethiopian tailors – shemanne in Amharic – earn up to 200 Ethiopian Birr a month, the equivalent of £10, while the dress made by the Manchester-born designer priced at £895 would cost £30 if created by one of them.
Oxfam, which backed Ethiopia in its battle to trademark its coffee beans in a recently resolved legal tussle with Starbucks, is investigating the matter along with the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Addis Ababa, having been alerted by the Ethiopian Embassy in London.
A spokeswoman for Matthew Williamson's company said in a statement: "The design team derived inspiration from various African countries and tribal groups.
"In presenting his spring/ summer 2008 collection Matthew Williamson strived to gain recognition and admiration for not only the traditional dress of the Ethiopian people, but also other African communities whose beautiful traditional techniques are also evident in the show."
She added that the designer had no desire to offend "such communities".
However, Abdurazak Omer of the Intellectual Property Office in Addis Ababa said: "We are very unhappy with the actions of Mr Williamson.
"These are the dresses of our mothers and grandmothers. They symbolise our identity, faith and national pride. Nobody has the right to claim these designs as their own."
While his officers would like to take action they are financially limited in what they can undertake, he said, adding that that this incident is just one of many such cases.
Many of those who joined the Facebook group suggest that Williamson could perhaps lessen his "offence" by donating a percentage of his profits to one of the charities that supports Ethiopian weavers and tailors.
Or maybe to use more African models, such as the Ethiopian Liya Kebede who has previously appeared in catwalk shows for Mr Williamson.
A spokeswoman for Matthew Williamson’s company said in a statement: “The design team derived inspiration from various African countries and tribal groups.
That is only Ethiopian dress not African dress!!!
No other African country has dress like this.
Those dress ARE not african ! They are
it is ammazing how the ethiopian national dress is beautifull.but while the ethiopian desiner forgot about the fereng did it so what is the problem?EVEN IT IS GOOD OPPORTUNITY FOR ETHIOPIAN SHEMANE they will export more material to those desiners if they make a deal otherwise it is just funny.let all women of the world dress these beautiful dress and we will proud.how many desiners in ethiopia use someones intelectuals property in the sphare of shoose and close industry?
This is the Ethiopain dress and only theirs. It is good to see the Ethiopians rise up in such a way to defend what is their own. We have seen that in the coffe case with star buck and got it resolved. I hope Ethiopia and Ethiopians will prevail in this case too. Aselamualikum.
Mr. Williamson is commiting a tort. He intentionally causing a confusion about ethiopian unque product by representing as being Africa’s.
I think white woman more beautful and more modern then the black Ethiopian woman.
I think the dress in Question is not Ethiopian dress it is one of opressed ethnic groups ONLY.
Second Ethiopian govt. should pay those white woman million doller each for wearing those dorza dress.
3rd those dorza ethinc groups are pure Africans unlike the Amhara who think they are not Africans by saying those dress are not Africans based on their own saying they are not Africans but they should not deny those dorza root. who are pure Africa…
4th if you think the dorza are Ethiopia not Africans then you are repeating yourself…..
5th remember you are calling those dorza names?
if you forget let me remind you if you say any one anyone at all with flat nose you calling them dorza meaning they are “Ugly” just because they have flat now
you can cliam your Amhric your history if you like but leave your hand from the dorza dresss.
What a crap people write on this issue!
•Here is the basic point, Does Mr. Williamson give recognition to the country of origin for its design? Probably not, but he did include Africa. (of course Ethiopia is part of Africa, for those of you who get confused with Geography)
•The second point is, does the Ethiopian government the right to contest for the ownership of the particular cloth fabric, YES!
•I am sure, after OXFAM investigate the matter thoroughly they will come in conclusion for Mr. Williamson to fairly recognize and pay the fair trade value for Ethiopian Shemmane’s.
•Overall, It is a good thing well known designer try to promote the Ethiopian fabric as long as the property right of the Country of origin fully respected.
•Folks, at the end of the day it will open market for Ethiopian Shemane’s to export their fabric…
•Now, tell me that is bad for the Country….!!!
It’s an habeshan people dress not only Ethiopian but that includes Eritrea, folks not only that majority of this dress is worn by traditional beautiful Eritreans see one of the Eritrean weddings, sorry guys just to let you know incase you forgot meanwhile a lot of people will be angry over this comment for sure just go head and burn your self up over this as usual as for me ta ta for now
It is hardto control a particular clothing design that is so traditional and has been around for hundreds of years. What made me mad (and probably many others) was seeing a white girl sport around in the dress like she discovered something new and the designer acting like he made such a huge discovery. In the business world- “infringement". Give some money to Ethiopia’s causes since you want to take our style!
hey redneck called “white man” please go live in a trailer with your white trash rednecked family ok. Typical redneck country boy saying a white woman is more beautiful then a authentic Ethiopian woman. The Ethiopian government doesn’t have to pay shit to these white woman.
Mr. Ethioian and Mr. Ethio are possibily two Eritrean here beaware of them.
We Ethiopians are Africans!!! Our dress represent AFrican and done for several years in history.
Designer William did not just get inspiration he imported it whole. it looks like an imported dress to me.
We import many dresses but never called ‘em ours.
I just want him to acknowledge where he get it from and name the dress “Habesha".
Can somebody tell me what the problem is?
I would be happy if I see other cultures start to integrate our(African) dress.
I GOT IT.
May be Meles’s goverment () want some money from it?
I am a white man,
second: Does Ethiopian own copy right to Shemane.
The answer is NO! No body own the right to Shemane…. it is public property.
If you don’t know any copy righted porperty exprid after 100 years and become public property.
Yes Ethiopia govt. might have a case to copy right the name “Shema” it self.
for example any country can make a CAR… BUT they can’t call it ford or any other brand beside that they can make any car they want any name it any thing they want.
Meaning anyone can make Shema but can’t call it Shema but they can call it UK shema.
I know it is very hard to make you understand a ford company first they make car but they have no copy right to the name “CAR” BUT FORD.
IN Ethiopian anyone can make shema but you prefrerd the dorza shema just like that.
about the oxfirm case… Ethiopia can’t say she own the name “coffee” but she can say she own the name Jama coffee etc etc.
Any one can produce coffee but can’t call it jama coffee you see that is what Ethiopia try to protect not the coffee.
I know it is very hard to admit that we are going to lose our Ethiopian Shemane’s to China made one but that is the fact and face it up and make the Shema prodcation modern or lose it out to chian made even the Ethiuopian woman might buy the chianse made over dorza made if we are stitting and posting hate 24/7 instead of going home (Ethiopia) modernized the process… it doesn’t take million dollars to modernzed the shama making process… it is already their are modfication made to the shame machine… what we need is the bank to give them loan to buy those machine so that the shama maker can produce their shama 10 time faster then the old mathod. this way they can charage five time lass then what they charage now and still make profit… whent he price go down more people can afford to buy…
the second way to promot Ethiopian shama is to make it company unform… not those with NATALA but the same as the photo the white woamn or model wear can be more apporpert for many comany this way they can increased the sale.
Don’t forget GABEE “BLANKET” THEY gabee can be sold for 5 star hotel hence promoted them as Ethiopian blanket.. instead of using imported one. how about it using htem in hospital too. this way the sale increased… use we can use this interent for good stuf or bad stuff instead of wasting our time pelase someone do something take mine idea and make million of dollars with it.. i don’t care as long as the poor benfit. the Ghana people didn’t say any thing when the black Americaqn adopted their dress… in fact we should promot our dress by paying million of dollars for top model or asking those star who come to Ethiopia to wear our dress can you imange asking RICE to wear our dress for free… all the fist lady that come to our country should be given one and ask them to wear it for photo… don’t still forget paying million of dollars for top models to promot our closth… this will helop the local woman to wear it if they see the outdider wear it too.
my thought also is the same with
due and full recognition of the origin of the cloth( Yehabesha tibeb libis) should be let known. The
exclusiveness of cultural attires should never be undermined by some designers who are a bit unique to incorporate some global custumes.
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