Tag Archives: luang prabang

Ock Pop Tok: Showcasing Lao Handicrafts to the World

Weaving at Ock Pop Tok

In a country where weaving is usually considered a house chore and mostly done by women, Ock Pop Tok is striving to transform this perception.

Laos, Thailand Sign New Cross-border Road and Rail Deal

Thailand Laos Rail and Road Extension

Laos and Thailand have signed an agreement to extend road and rail connections between the two countries worth more than THB 3 billion (USD 98.2 million).

New Road Connects Thai Border to Luang Prabang, Reduces Travel Time

new road luang prabang to nan province

A new road connecting the Thai border at Nan Province with Luang Prabang Province in Laos has officially opened, cutting the travel time for visitors.

Japan x Sabai: Sounds, Sights, Tastes, Smiles, Friendship a Feast at Tokyo’s Laos Festival ’19

Laos Festival 2019 Celebrated in Tokyo, Japan May 25-26, 2019

Dancing, Friendship, Frivolity & Unmistakable Sound of World Heritage Listed Bamboo-Piped Khaen Among the Greetings to Tokyo’s Famous Yoyogi Park for Japan’s Laos Festival 2019, The Laotian Times reports.

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.”

 

Laotian Eye: Faster Times At Pi Mai As Culture, Continuity, Change Collide at Lao New Year

Laotian Eye: Faster Times At Pi Mai As Culture, Continuity, Change Collide

Thailand knows the time of year as Songkran. Cambodia has Chol Chnam Thmey. Myanmar marks the occasion with Thingyan. In Laos, Boun Pi Mai.

Also Known as Lao New Year, the biggest festival on the Lao calendar brings three days of celebration and rejoicing across the country and beyond, taking place every year from April 14th to 16th.

Celebrating Pi Mai (Lao New Year)

While it’s said each month has a different celebration for the people of Laos, Boun Pi Mai is certainly a very special one to Laotians at home and abroad.

Please Don’t Rush, It’s Wet!

Times change and social mores are on the move, influencing lifestyles of contemporary Laos.

 

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

The celebration of Lao New Year is no different. Yet one constant throughout is water.

Whether its ceremonially offering respect to elders or playing and throwing or sprinkling it on friends, a primary activity is always to get others wet.

Many folks set up a small paddling pool in front of their house.

Others go around in a pickup with a water bucket and throw water for fun, despite it being officially frowned upon.

The roadsides of Vientiane and other cities brighten up, with shopkeepers offering bold New Year fashions to the passing public.

People dress up for the celebration, particularly in Luang Prabang where traditions hold tightest.

ເທວະດາຫລວງ ໄປບູຊາ ຄາຣະວະ ແລະຟ້ອນອວຍພອນປີໃຫມ່ລາວ ຢູ່ວັດຊຽງທອງ ໃນວັນທີ 15/04/2019

Posted by ນະຄອນຫລວງພຣະບາງ Luangprabang City on ວັນຈັນ ທີ 15 ເມສາ 2019

There is a conflict between the decorum required at places of worship and on the street beyond.

Many don’t know the history of when it’s started and why.

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

As a young and curious boy, I heard from my grandfather that it’s a Buddhist festival.

As devotees, we believe (as followers of many other religions also do) that New Year can take bad things away and bring good fortune.

Of course, the festival known as Boun Pi Mai is not only celebrated in Laos.

Celebrations in neighboring countries all derive from the same Buddhist calendar.

These might have been scheduled to coincide with time between harvest and planting seasons to provide a window of rare leisure in the year’s hectic schedule.

These days I can not remember my childhood New Year celebrations in great detail, yet I am sure we didn’t have so many activities available as recently.

Forgotten memories return when I see the children playing with water in a village in Ngoi district near the town of Luang Prabang province.

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

The village was quite rustic, but the children were having heaps of fun just as I did with my friends some 25 years ago.

They fetched water from a stream in the woods.

In my time we had to pump it out of the ground by hand.

Before throwing it over each other of course!

Growing up, our home was by the main roadside of Nontae village inXaythany district, about 25km from Vientiane.

We had a water pump in the village which was close to my house.

All of our friends would be there playing with water together.

We were delighted anytime whenever some people were passing by, so we hurried up to pump the water out and throw at them. We would never tire of it.

I also remember that at the time, many of our fellow countryfolks of the Hmong and Khmu ethnicity didn’t celebrate Boun Pi Mai so much as they might today.

@Lao Youth Radio FM 90.0 Mhz Lao Youth Union

Posted by Laos Briefly on ວັນພະຫັດ ທີ 26 ເມສາ 2018

Due to the difference in cultures, they were sometimes furious when we threw water at them, but we were not concerned enough to stop.

Whatever they said we still gave a blessing to them all the times while showering them repeatedly.

Back to the Village & Family Homes

My family is big and extended one like a tree.

As my grandparents stayed in my house, most of our family would have an appointment at the new year to visit and have a Somma ceremony.

Somma sees children seek forgiveness from parents and older adults by giving Khan-ha (a set of offerings comprising five pairs of flowers and candles) and also conduct a Baci ceremony as well.

I don’t know when I first experienced the Somma ceremony, but we did it with older family members every year for as long as I can remember.

In the past, we had a long three-day celebration but spent more of that time with family and cousins in our village.

Maybe it’s because we didn’t have a car to take us to go away anywhere.

We would do all the traditional and cultural ceremonies such as Somma, Baci, bathing Buddha statues in our local area.

Of course, the festival was primarily a family and community celebration. It was a timeless joy to experience these together.

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

Today, Lao New Year remains the biggest festival celebration and taking place everywhere nationwide.

Of course, anyone of any ethnic group or nationality can have fun together in Laos these days at Boun Pimai.

However, some things are changing. More and more cultural traditions are being left by the wayside.

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

Young people have more time for loud music than culture, especially along the roadsides, house and drinking venues.

Of course, it’s enjoyable to mess around with water and have fun, but we should be aware of the meaning behind it.

Laotian youth at home and abroad should also know what Lao New Year means and continue the traditional forms of celebration for the benefit of current and future generations.

Max Mara vs Laos’ Oma Ethnic Group: Fashion Chain Facing Claims of Textile Plagiarism, Design Theft

Oma People of Laos versus Max Mara in Plagiarism, Design Theft Claim

The Laotian Times looks at the plagiarism accusations lodged against fashion chain Max Mara by the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre. In doing so, we also welcome the chance to publish Max Mara’s response to these claims as soon as they become available.

Alleged plagiarism of traditional designs of ethnic minority groups has hit the headlines in Laos with Italian born private fashion chain being accused of pilfering the property of the Oma people, an ethnic group who reside in the mountainous north and north-east of South East Asia’s multiethnic Laos.

No mention of origin. Products promoted on Max Mara Weekend Zagreb Instagram. #MaxOma Direct link:https://www.instagram.com/p/BvqktKiHM6A/(update: Max Mara has taken down this social media post!)

Posted by Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre on ວັນຈັນ ທີ 8 ເມສາ 2019

Weekend MaxMara Zagreb

Posted by Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre on ວັນຈັນ ທີ 8 ເມສາ 2019

Social media shares have hit the thousands for the underdog story of the year as the diminutive cultural community of a small number of villages goes into bat against global fashion giant Max Mara after the discovery of the alleged design theft in Croatia.

The campaign calls 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 that advocates for the intellectual property rights of ethnic minorities.

Side by side comparison. #MaxOma

Posted by Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre on ວັນຈັນ ທີ 8 ເມສາ 2019

Multi-million dollar fashion brand Max Mara is exploiting cultural designs and heritage of the Oma, an isolated ethnic minority group in northern Laos, without any acknowledgment or compensation, Luang Prabang’s Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre alleges.

No mention of origin of the "ethnic print" or the Oma on their website. #MaxOma

Posted by Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre on ວັນຈັນ ທີ 8 ເມສາ 2019

“Our grandparents passed down these traditions to our parents, and our parents to us. We are the Oma people, and we preserve our culture by making and wearing our traditional clothes. We need them especially for funeral rites, out of respect to our ancestors.” – Khampheng Loma, Head of Nanam Village

Campaigning alongside Laos’ Oma people is the Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre in UNESCO World Heritage Listed Luang Prabang.

In fact, it was the discovery of the alleged examples of appropriation by the centre’s staff in far-away Croatia that has led to the accusations against the fashion giant.Lauren Ellis, former employee of Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre and current museums curator based in Melbourne.

Side by side comparison. #MaxOma

Posted by Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre on ວັນຈັນ ທີ 8 ເມສາ 2019

Her reaction when she discovered the Max Mara collection in one of the brand’s stores in Zagreb, Croatia?

“I had to do a double take. It was only because I had worked in Laos that I immediately recognized the designs as Oma. They had copied the patterns exactly. I couldn’t believe that this major brand would sell such blatantly stolen designs.” 

Now, together the Oma and the TAEC are highlighting appropriation of the owners’ intellectual property following alleged Infringements by the Italian-founded fashion chain Max Mara.



Working with embroidery and applique is very challenging. Each motif is difficult and time-consuming to make. But, this is our tradition. Now, we can make products to sell to help support our families.” – Khampheng Loma, Head of Nanam Village

Side by side comparison. #MaxOma

Posted by Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre on ວັນຈັນ ທີ 8 ເມສາ 2019

The handmade textiles of the Oma are incredibly detailed, taking a huge amount of time, skill, and patience. To see them reduced to a printed pattern on a mass-produced garment is heartbreaking.” – Tara Gujadhur, TAEC Co-Director

Side by side comparison. #MaxOma

Posted by Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre on ວັນຈັນ ທີ 8 ເມສາ 2019

“The issue here is not the integration of Oma motifs in a more globalized world through the collection of Max Mara,” Dr. Lissoir said.

Cultures are fluid. Communities and their traditions and handicrafts are in constant change. They adapt themselves and get inspired by other cultures. Always have, always will.

However, Max Mara didn’t get inspired by Oma motifs and reinterpret them. They simply scanned a handmade piece and printed it on clothes without even mentioning the existence of Oma community.

This is not cultural appreciation. This is not creative interpretation. This is plagiarism.”

 

TAEC’s full statement reads:

“ITALIAN FASHION BRAND MAX MARA PLAGIARISES DESIGNS OF ETHNIC MINORITY GROUP IN LAOS”

“Multi-million dollar fashion brand Max Mara is exploiting cultural designs and heritage of the Oma, an isolated ethnic minority group in northern Laos, without any acknowledgement or compensation, Luang Prabang’s Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre alleges.

Max Mara Fashion Group, a multi-billion dollar Italian couture fashion house plagiarised traditional designs of the Oma ethnic minority group in their Spring/Summer 2019 collection.

The patterns appeared in dresses, skirts and blouses presented in the collection’s “Max Mara Weekend” resort line.

The Oma, a small ethnic community living in the hills of Phongsaly Province in northern Laos, embroider, stitch, and appliqué these colorful designs onto their traditional clothing, including head scarves, jackets, and leg wraps.

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

The colours, composition, shapes, and even placement, are identical to the original Oma designs. Max Mara’s design and marketing team has not acknowledged or compensated the Oma in marketing, labeling, or display of the collection in their stores and online shop, nor have they responded to urgent enquiries on the issue.

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 million, 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.

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, is Tara Gujadhur.

“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,” Gujadhur said.

“This is stealing the work of artisans who do not have the tools to fight it on their own,”

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, they sent repeated emails and messages to Max Mara’s headquarters, with no response.

As a result, TAEC is now taking to social media to amplify their message and enlist the public’s support.

A call for action is being shared from TAEC’s Facebook and Instagram page (@taeclaos), where photo comparisons of the products can be found, as well.

“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?,” Gujadhur said.

“Over the past three decades, protecting the intellectual property rights of the third world and indigenous peoples has become recognized as crucial, although how this should be done is much more debatable. We are looking at ways to assist the communities we work with to tackle this issue.”

“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.”

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 recognize 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 said.

“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.”

TAEC’s campaign to draw attention to this issue is now live, using Facebook, Instagram, and influencers across platforms to call out Max Mara’s plagiarism.

The campaign calls 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 that advocates for the intellectual property rights of ethnic minorities.

The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC) is a local social enterprise founded in 2006 to promote the appreciation and transmission of Laos’ ethnic cultural heritage and livelihoods based on traditional skills.

The Centre’s primary activities are two-fold: a museum, and fair-trade handicrafts shops directly linked with artisan communities. The Centre’s work includes school outreach activities, craft workshops, lectures, research, and a non-profit foundation.

What did Max Mara do?

Max Mara used traditional designs of the Oma ethnic minority group in their Spring/Summer 2019 collection for the “Max Mara Weekend” clothing line, without acknowledgment, and likely without permission or compensation. Oma women embroider, stitch, and appliqué these designs onto their traditional clothing, including head scarves, jackets, and leg wraps. Max Mara had these designs digitally duplicated and printed onto fabric, reducing painstaking, traditional motifs to factory-produced patterns. The colors, composition, shapes, and even placement are identical to the Oma designs.

Who are the Oma?

The Oma are a small ethnic group living in mainland Southeast Asia. They speak a language belonging to the Sino-Tibetan ethnolinguistic family, like the Akha – a community more numerous and widely recognized by the general public. While Oma are often described as a sub-group of Akha ethnic group (and called “Akha Oma”), many consider themselves a distinct community. This association with the Akha makes the exact population and number of villages of the Oma difficult to pin down. However, it is estimated that there are fewer than 2,000 Oma in Laos, inhabiting seven villages in Phongsaly province. Small Oma communities may also exist in neighboring southern China, northwest Vietnam, and Myanmar.


Can copying a design be considered “plagiarism?”

Absolutely. 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 is 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? Over the past three decades, protecting the intellectual property (IP) rights of third-world and indigenous peoples has become recognized as essential, though how it should be done is much more debatable.

TAEC Co-Director, Tara, working with the Oma artisans in 2017 to understand the time involved in creating their clothing.Photo credit: Radium Tam

Posted by Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre on ວັນຈັນ ທີ 8 ເມສາ 2019

If the designs have no patent, how can Max Mara be held accountable?

Public opinion. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for traditional knowledge, artwork, design, and ideas to be co-opted by multinational corporations who have the power and financial clout to either ignore IP claims or drag them out in court. However, we have seen that a public outcry, negative press, and boycotting of brands can pressure companies to admit wrongdoing and improve their practices.

 

What should Max Mara have done if they wanted to feature the Oma’s designs?

They had many options. They could have approached the Oma community or artisans directly, and ordered their handmade work for a fair price to incorporate into their clothing, generating income for the community. There are organizations, like Nest, that work with brands to help link them to artisan groups and social enterprises in developing countries to collaborate. These partnerships can result in wonderfully creative products that also generate great visibility and earnings for both the brand and the communities. At the very least, Max Mara should have attributed the designs to the Oma (avoiding the generic “ethnic” term) and committed a certain percentage of profit to go towards education, rural development, or advocacy work with Oma communities.

How has the Oma community reacted to this issue?

The Oma artisans TAEC works 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 recognize this as an important, long-term process.

If they don’t understand the issue, why does it matter?

Plagiarism is wrong, whether the plagiarised feel wronged or not. Letting this kind of corporate behavior 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.

How did TAEC get involved?

TAEC has worked with the Oma since 2010 when we were hired to survey their crafts and identify potential income-generating opportunities for their artisans. Most recently, we have worked with them on documenting their traditional music and new year’s celebrations. Nanam Village is an approximately 9-hour drive from Luang Prabang, part of it unpaved, and is by far the most remote village (of 30 across Laos) that TAEC works with.

On Tuesday, 2 April 2019, a friend and former colleague was in Zagreb, Croatia, and saw the designs through a Max Mara shop window. She immediately shared pictures with us. Amazed, we initially thought it might be actual handcrafted work from the Oma that was incorporated into the clothing. Upon further examination, it became clear that not only were the Oma not credited in the name of the garment, on tags, or online, but the motifs were simply digitally reproduced and mass-printed. TAEC immediately reached out to Max Mara’s headquarters through various e-mail addresses and social media channels. After a week with no response, TAEC feels it’s important to make this issue public.

What should Max Mara do now to right this?

Max Mara should: (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 organization that advocates for the intellectual property rights of ethnic minorities.”

 

Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre, Luang Prabang, Laos

Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre, Luang Prabang, Laos

 

Flying In: Singapore’s Scoot Swoops Into Laos’ Vientiane, World Heritage Listed Luang Prabang

Flying from Singapore to Laos and beyond just got easier after Scoot launched its inaugural flights from the city-state to the jewel of the Mekong.

The inaugural journey marks the start of a three-times-weekly service from Singapore to Luang Prabang and Vientiane.

The flight was reported in local media including The Laotian Times sister publication ລາວໂພສຕ໌ Laopost.

The addition of the two destinations in Laos brings to a total of 67 in Scoot’s network across 19 countries and territories.

It is also the only airline offering direct Singapore-Laos services after routes were transferred from sister airline SilkAir, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines.

The routes will be operated with Scoot’s A320 aircraft.

To celebrate Scoot’s maiden flight to Laos, traditional Lao music was played over the sound system in the aircraft.

Passengers onboard were tested on their knowledge of Laos and Scoot in a fun quiz.

Five lucky passengers walked away with prizes including Scoot travel voucher valued at SGD100, a Scoot travel organizer, a Laos travel guide, Scoot-in-Style lounge access and for the kids, a Scoot Nano Brick Aircraft and Control Tower Playset.

The flights operate on a circular routing departing from Singapore for Luang Prabang, followed by Vientiane, before heading back to Singapore.

Chief Commercial Officer of Scoot Mr Vinod Kannan welcomed guests celebrating the inaugural flight.

“Laos is a hidden gem that is yet to be discovered by many and is the ideal destination for people looking to escape from the concrete jungle,” he said.

“With Vientiane and Luang Prabang joining our network, our customers now have more travel choices, and travelers from Laos can also explore more destinations around the world via Singapore.”

Upon landing at Luang Prabang Airport and Wattay International Airport in Vientiane, the A320 aircraft named Yellow Tail, was greeted with a traditional water cannon salute.