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ARTEIXO – Inditex, the parent company of Spanish fast fashion brand Zara, has said it will investigate allegations that it replicated some designs by South African brand MaXhosa. “The company has already started an internal investigation and will be in contact with MaXhosa’s representatives to clarify and resolve the situation as swiftly as possible,” Zara South Africa said in a statement. The business has now removed the items in question from its stores. “As a preventive action, the process to immediately remove this item both from stores and online was activated the moment this situation was brought to our attention,” the business added.

South Africans have expressed their disappointment at Zara’s decision to sell items that look like those in the the local label’s 2014 Khanyisa range. MaXhosa founder, Laduma Ngxokolo has also been alerted that socks looking suspiciously like his own designs were in Zara stores in Johannesburg, New York and the UK.

The Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (SACTWU), an affiliate of the IndustriALL Global Union, has condemned Zara fashion after it emerged the Spanish-based global brand produced designs with a strong similarity to a local designer’s collection.

SACTWU is urging Zara to work with local designers and clothing factories to create more jobs in the garment sector.

According to SACTWU the “cut-and-paste” of designs by big multinational companies ignores the “little folk” whose businesses are vulnerable to such practices and can collapse as a result. The union argues that the niche market is the lifeblood of small boutique brands and can be easily killed off by mass production by big retailers like Zara.

Said Andre Kriel, general secretary of SACTWU: “It seems they are comfortable acting like colonialists – simply exporting the money they make in South Africa to Spain and causing damage to local factories and workers. Now they are stealing some of our cultural artefacts and damaging a niche designer along the way”.

“International brand Zara appears to have appropriated the designs of South African homegrown talent, the inspiring local designer Laduma Ngxokolo and his brand maXhosa. If this is true – and it is certainly suggested by the ‘coincidental’ stylistic overlaps between some Zara products and maXhosa’s iconic designs – it would represent the worst form of fashion colonialism: the extraction by global retail powerhouses, based in the developed world, of intellectual and cultural heritage from far less powerful designers based in the developing world.”

Added Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa: “Local designs and factories should be promoted instead of being destroyed by big brands. For this reason, we support SACTWU in its campaign for an agreement with Zara.”

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