We all know the story of designer inspired clothes and accessories, including high end designers finding inspiration from different cultures. But has Matthew Williamson taken his Ethiopian inspirations a step too far?
Two dresses from his latest spring summer 2008 collection were so similar to Ethiopia’s traditional national dress that the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Oxfam are investigating the matter.
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.”
But a spokewomen for Matthew Williamson has released a statement saying that “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.”
One might say that this is not uncommon, with FUK.co.uk blogger, Marian, saying that Williamson is not the first designer to be inspired by African dress.
“I recall a McQueen show in London where African tribal dress was a theme and also Red Or Dead’s last ever catwalk show under the control of Wayne and Geradine was inspired by Africans in London and referenced tribal dress as well as knock out creations like the dress made from a beaded car seat.”
But it is good to keep in mind that traditional Ethiopian tailors earn up to 200 Ethiopian Birr a month, the equivalent of Â£10, while Williamson dress are priced the dress Â£895.
Do you think Williamson offended the Ethiopians or his inspirations were justified?[Images: Elle.com & EthiopianDesign.com]