Category Archives: Social Media

Max Mara vs Laos’ Oma: Alleged Fashion Design Theft Dispute Pushes Change.org Petition To 5,000

Max Mara vs Laos' Oma Change.org petition approaches 5,000

The ongoing design-related dispute involving Italian-based fashion house Max Mara, Laos’ ethnic Oma people Luang Prabang’s Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre over the alleged unauthorized use of traditional ethnic textile motifs from the remote ethnic community in the firm’s fashion offerings is heating up with an online petition reaching 5,000 signatures.

The petition entitled “Urge Max Mara to pull plagiarised ethnic Oma designs from their stores”  was posted on the popular site change.org

The Laotian Times reported on the dispute earlier this month in the article “Max Mara vs Laos’ Oma Ethnic Group: Fashion Chain Facing Claims of Textile Plagiarism, Design Theft“.

Now, an online petition via Change.org to the owner of the Fashion Chain Max Mara was approaching 5,000 signatures as of 10 am Monday April 22 in Laos (UTC+7).

Max Mara has gone silent. It’s been over a week since we sent our last letter, and since then, our petition…

Posted by Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre on ວັນອາທິດ ທີ 21 ເມສາ 2019

“Clearly, consumers and the general public feel that harvesting and profiting from the creative work of others, particularly ethnic minority groups in developing countries, is wrong, and allowing it to go unchecked sets a dangerous precedent,” the letter from TAEC to Luigi Maramotti, Chairman of Max Mara, states.

“As the chairman of your privately-owned company, we are now reaching out to you directly. Please demonstrate ethical and moral leadership in the fashion and textile industry.”

“We ask that you pull this line from your stores, online shop, and resellers, issue a public statement committing to not plagiarise in the future, and lastly, donate the proceeds earned from the sales of these designs to an organisation of your choice that works to the protect the rights of ethnic artisans around the world.”

     VS  Max Mara

Efforts to raise awareness to the plight of the intellectual property of some of Laos most remote communities is being spearheaded by the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre of Luang Prabang.

The Petition started by TAEC and addressed to Max Mara Chairman Luigi Maramotti and Designer Director Laura Lusuardi states:

“Max Mara, a billion dollar Italian fashion house, plagiarised traditional designs of the Oma ethnic minority group from Laos.

“This is not the first time that a fashion brand has copied or appropriated designs of an ethnic group from developing countries, and past experience has shown that these companies are only likely to respond when faced with public pressure and negative press.

“Max Mara digitally duplicated and printed the designs onto fabric, reducing painstaking, traditional motifs to factory-produced patterns.

“The colors, composition, shapes, and even placement are identical to the original Oma designs. The company has not acknowledged the Oma in marketing, labeling, or display of the collection in its stores and online shop, nor has compensation been paid.

Max Mara vs Laos' Oma Change.org petition approaches 5,000

Max Mara vs Laos’ Oma Change.org petition approaches 5,000

“The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre is calling for Max Mara to (1) pull the clothing line from its stores and online, (2) publicly commit to not plagiarising designs again, and (3) donate 100% of the proceeds already earned from the sale of these garments to an organisation of its choice that advocates for the intellectual property rights of ethnic minorities. More information can be found on TAEC’s Facebook page.

“A largely agrarian community, the Oma live in the remote mountains northern Laos, northwestern Vietnam and southern China.

“Their exact population and number of villages is difficult to establish, as they are often grouped as part of the larger Akha ethnic group. However, it is estimated that in Laos there are fewer than 2,000 Oma across seven villages.

“Traditional clothing is still a vital part of the identity and pride of Oma people — handspun, indigo-dyed garments with vibrant red embroidery and applique is distinctive and unique to their group.

“In recent years, Oma women have begun to earn income through the sale of their distinctive crafts. In remote communities with few economic opportunities, these earnings are vital, and used towards improved nutrition, health, and education for their families.

“Founded in 1951 by Italian Achille Maramotti, Max Mara Fashion Group has grown into an international fashion powerhouse with over 2,200 stores in 105 countries and an online shop.

In 2017, Max Mara Fashion Group recorded global sales of €1.558 billion, across all brands. Unlike most couture houses which are publicly traded or held by multinational corporations, Max Mara Fashion Group is privately-held and helmed by Luigi Maramotti, CEO and a member of the original founding family.

“This is not an example of simple cultural appropriation, where designers utilize ‘ethnic-inspired’ elements, colors, materials, or styling, toeing the murky line between appreciation and appropriation.

“This is stealing the work of artisans who do not have the tools to fight it on their own,” states Tara Gujadhur, Co-Founder of the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC), a social enterprise founded to celebrate and promote Laos’ ethnic cultural heritage and support rural artisans.

“TAEC’s small team based in Luang Prabang, Laos, is working to draw attention to Max Mara Fashion Group’s negligent behavior. Upon discovering the company’s plagiarism purely by chance on 2 April 2019, they sent repeated emails and messages to Max Mara’s headquarters, with no response.

“As a result, TAEC took to social media to amplify their message. The company finally responded on 10 April, but has not issued any apology or admitted their mistake, simply demanding the campaign cease, and then threatening potential legal action.

“A design is intellectual property, whether it’s sketched in a notebook by an illustrator, mocked up by a graphic designer on a computer, or embroidered on indigo-dyed cotton in a remote village in Laos.

“If it’s generally understood that using someone’s photography or written work without acknowledgment or permission is wrong, why would a handcrafted textile design be any different?” states Gujadhur.

“For this behavior to go unchecked is dangerous, as it sends the message that creative work that is traditional and shared by a community and culture in the developing world does not deserve the same kind of protections given to contemporary designs by individual ‘artists’ in the West. Companies can harvest motifs, materials, and ideas freely from communities that lack the educational, financial, and technological resources to have their rights recognized,” elaborates Gujadhur.

TAEC began working with the Oma in Nanam Village in 2010, when the organization was hired by a German development agency to survey their crafts and identify potential income-generating opportunities for the community. Since then, TAEC has helped Nanam to create more market-oriented products, such as pouches, cuffs, and wine bottle sleeves, generating much-needed cash for the women artisans and their families.

“The handicrafts are sold in TAEC’s museum shops in Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Laos’ few cities that draws significant international tourism. Currently, TAEC works with over 30 communities across Laos, with fifty percent of the proceeds from their shops flowing directly to artisans.

TAEC has spoken to Khampheng Loma, the headman of Nanam Village, and not surprisingly, he was somewhat unclear about the issue. “The artisans we work with live in a very remote community, so their life experience is completely removed from issues of intellectual property rights. However, we will continue to discuss it with them, as we recognise this as an important, long-term process,” according to Thongkhoun Soutthivilay, TAEC’s Co-Director, who works closely with the Oma women on handicraft production.

“Each motif has a special meaning,” Loma shared. “Our tradition of embroidery makes us who we are. In our culture, you have to know how to embroider to be able to call yourself Oma.”

 

Haze of Smog Hovers over Laos’ Capital, Citizens Concerned about Health Risks

Smog Descends upon Laos

An unhealthy haze of smog has descended upon the capital city of Vientiane and air pollution has been noted in several other provinces around Laos.

Concerned local and international residents have been monitoring the situation, posting online their own amateur updates on the local levels of atmospheric particulate matter (PM) using measuring devices.

These measurements tell a similar tale. Air quality in the past few days appears to have reached dangerous levels for human health.

While the Lao government has not yet made any announcement regarding the smog, the Laotian Times office was able to contact the Pollution Management Department, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

According to officials at the department, unhealthy levels of pollution have been detected. However,  they state it is expected that within two or three days the situation will have improved.

Condominiums at That Luang Marsh SEZ almost invisible due to smog

Condominiums at That Luang Marsh SEZ almost invisible due to smog

The major source of the smog is said to be a forest fire in Sangthong District, Vientiane Capital, which has now been extinguished.

Lao citizens and foreign residents alike have voiced concerns about the smog, and social media has been flooded with information of varying reliability.

Many have taken to purchasing their own air quality reading devices, and many have looked to Thai websites for information on how best to deal with the problem at home.

It follows a famous case of dangerous smog that was reported in Bangkok this February, with schools closing and workplaces shut down due to particulate matter levels at PM2.5 (referring to particularly dangerous particulates measuring 2.5 micron in diameter or less).

Thailand’s Chiang Mai has also been hit with smog this month and was forced to ground flights, and was believed to be world’s most polluted city in terms of air quality for three days running.

This situation was monitored closely by people in Laos, who have raised questions as to why schools and workplaces have not been given any instructions by the authorities here.

Meanwhile, the possibility of rain over the next few days could provide some respite for the capital, if not the other provinces depending on where it falls.

Photo: Aleqs Log

Samsung Opens Tech Institute to Budding Lao App Developers

samsung tech institute opening

The Samsung-Lao Tech Institute 2019 project will offer training in app development and basic Android programming skills to young Lao programmers and app enthusiasts.

Free applications are now open, and interested persons may visit the website here to apply. Places are limited to 40.

Classes will be run from 18-22 and 25-29 March 2019, from 17:00 to 20:00 in Vientiane at the Samsung Smart Class room, Faculty of Engineering (Sokpaluang). Interested persons may contact 020 59798822 for more information.

Successful applicants will be contacted by the 11th of March or by email.

Samsung Tech Institute

The Vientiane Village Chief Stamping Out Garbage Fires

Village Chief of Sangveuy Stamps out Garbage Fires

Each and every morning, the loudspeakers in Vientiane’s Sangveuy Village, of Sisattanak District, can be heard sending out a special message from the Village Chief, Mr Oudomxay Sisomphone.  His message is clear and concise: stop burning garbage, and stop littering. A breath of fresh air to some, and a stern warning to others.

Mr Oudomxay, who gave an interview to the Lao Post, says he decided to take real action against the problem of garbage fires in order to clean up the air in his local area, and encourage villagers to take care of their health.  And he says the law is on his side.

Regulations against the practice have been issued, including Instruction by the Mayor of Vientiane, No. 002/MV, and several notices issued by the Head of Sisattanak District, as well as the official village regulations. According to these regulations, the burning of household waste is prohibited across Vientiane Capital. But many villages are unwilling or unable to deal with the problem.

“I like to keep my village clean. And the village authorities in my village take air pollution very seriously,” says Mr Oudomxay.

“This problem is only getting worse. Fumes from garbage fires are one factor contributing to pollution, and are a nuisance for people nearby who may experience difficulty breathing. This is also a major fire risk.”

Sangveuy village holds regular clean-up sessions on Saturday mornings, when residents gather together to pick up garbage and clean the village.  Areas of dense scrub are also cleared to make the village more attractive.

“We’ve had many foreign residents coming to our office to lodge complaints because these fires are harmful to their health, especially to children. I want all residents of Sangveuy, whether foreign or local, to live in a healthy and sanitary environment,” said Mr Oudomxay.

Mr Oudomxay says his village has also commenced an inspection and education program for offenses related to littering or burning waste. He has put measures in place to punish those found guilty, including monetary fines, and regularly checks for villagers flouting the rules.

He encourages all residents of Vientiane to take a stand against air pollution, and report incidents to local authorities.

Photo: Lao Post

Furball 2018: Animal Love, Welfare Aspirations Light Up The Night in Laos

Furball 2018 for Vimaan Suan Foundation in Vientiane Laos.

Fashionable Folk and Animal Spirits were very much in attendance as the very first Furball 2018 touched down in the Lao capital Saturday with some 150 folk in attendance.

Attendees helped raise funds for construction of a secure fence to mark the perimeter of Laos’ very first sanctuary for aged, infirm and other domestic animals, offering treatment and dignity to felines and “man’s best friend” alike.

In a salute to the effort, an entertainment line up of some of Laos biggest names such as Ola of the band Black Eyes, Aluna Thavansouk and Tot Lina hit the stage with well known tunes in Lao and English languages.

The musical feast was preceded by multiple courses of Crowne Plaza Hotel’s very finest kitchen creations.

Love Me, Love My Dog

Coming out to the strains of 70s British pop singer Peter Shelley’s hit was Aluna Thavansouk.

She also thrilled the charity’s supporters with her version of John Lennon’s legendary Imagine.

You Make Me So Very Happy

Attendees were treated to the rare reemergence of Singapore-bred & Laos-based inspiration Shanaynay, who lent her voice and presence to thrill the crowd.

The smooth voice of Sanonh and the up and coming vocals of Pepsi Song Contest Winner Kob also tickled the fancy of the animal lovers in attendance.

Furry Friends for a Cause

The fundraising Gala supports the Vimaan Suan Foundation’s Sanctuary Building Fund.

Proceeds from FurBall 2018 are be earmarked for Phase One of the construction of the Sanctuary located in Naxaythong District.

According to organisers, “each ticket sold will help build approximately 1 meter of wall that is 3 meters tall to protect the resident animals from predators and dog/cat thieves.

“Additional funds raised will be used to raise the level of the land to ensure the safety of the resident animals in the event of flooding.”

 


Furball 2018 for Vimaan Suan Foundation in Vientiane Laos.

T-shirts, Slander, Spelling & Official Dismissals – This Week in Lao Social Media

in the Lao social media 21 September 2018

Laotian Times rounds up some of the highlights of the Lao social media scene for the week.

This Week in Lao Social Media

Lao social media was dominated by news from Thailand this week as the search continues for a Thai football team lost in a Chiang Rai cave network. The number of vehicles registered in Vientiane suggests future traffic woes, and unscrupulous market vendors cause a stir once again. Other viral posts include discrimination by Thai police and concerns over dams in Northern Laos.

Vientiane Rescue Joins Efforts to Locate Lost Thai Football Team

Vientiane Rescue Cave Efforts

The population of Laos have been closely following the events unfolding surrounding the search for a Thai boys soccer team who went missing inside a cave complex in Chiang Rai province.  Members of Laos’ homegrown heroes, Vientiane Rescue, have been dispatched to Thailand where they will join an international effort to locate the 13 members of the boys soccer team lost in the Tham Luang cave network. Laos is said to be the first nation to have offered support by sending divers from the Vientiane Rescue team.
Image: Vientiane Rescue

 

900,000 Vehicles Registered in Vientiane Capital

900.000 vehicles registered in vientiane capital

The Head of the Vientiane Capital Vehicle and Driving Management Unit, Mr Nouanxay Phaxaysombath, announced that the number of vehicles registered in Vientiane Capital is steadily rising, with almost one vehicle for each member of the population. With a lack of public transport in commission, this could spell worsening traffic headaches for everyone.
Image: Jotmaikhao

 

Cheating Market Vendor Stuffs Fish with Weights

One consumer took to social media this week after opening a fish purchased at Suan Mone market to find 28 fishing weights stuffed inside. The post went viral, drawing widespread ire as users shared their own experiences with being cheated at the markets. Users called upon authorities to undertake more thorough and frequent inspections of consumer goods and foodstuffs.
News: Lao Post

 

Discrimination Against Lao Vehicles by Thai Police

Posted by B Manilat Latsavong on ວັນເສົາ ທີ 23 ມິຖຸນາ 2018

A post by a Lao couple stopped by police in Thailand has gone viral as a case of discrimination against Lao vehicles comes to light. The couple, in their Lao registered vehicle, crossed the border into Thailand to visit a friend at Bangkok Hospital, Udon Thani. The couple were stopped by a Thai police checkpoint in the middle of the road, where the police claimed that the couple ran a red light. Behind them were a long line of Lao registered vehicles, while Thai vehicles were being waved through. Luckily the couple had a dash-cam installed in their car and were able to show a recording to the police. However, the police claimed that the dash-cam footage was unclear and ordered the couple resolve the problem at the police station. At the police station the couple stuck to their guns and were finally released without paying a fine. They posted their experience on social media as a warning to others.

Video: B Manilat Latsavong 

 

Footage of Nam Ou 6 Dam

Posted by Xaisomphone Cps on ວັນພຸດ ທີ 27 ມິຖຸນາ 2018

Footage of water being released at Nam Ou 6 Dam, Phongsaly Province, has gone viral after one citizen voiced his concerns for nearby villagers. However, no explanation for the footage has come to light, so it is unknown if the situation at the dam is normal or not.
Video: Forgot Someday

This Week in Lao Social Media

Dolphins in the Lao Social Media

Dolphins, elephants, and counterfeit notes dominated the Lao social media landscape this week, as well as a pair of metal flip-flops, and an honest stranger who faced the music after scratching someone’s car.