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Considerations for the creative industries on motivations to collaborate with craft communities

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

Following on from the article ‘How can the fashion industry treat Indigenous people and craft communities with fairness and equity?’ that discusses the 3Cs’ Rule of consent, credit and compensation, this article explores the motivations of institutions and creative industry stakeholders for being inspired by Traditional Cultural Expressions and collaborations with Traditional Knowledge holders.


Why are appropriative design practices so common?


Decoration of cloth is not necessary to its function of modesty and protection from nature. It is human desire to adorn ourselves in stories that communicate our values to society. As we identified ourselves as separate to the rest of life on earth through the development and use of covering our bodies with textiles, so too did we establish aesthetics of specific meaning culturally and spiritually.


The original creators of these are Traditional Knowledge (TK)  holders and their textiles are a type of Traditional Cultural Expression (TCE). Conventional Intellectual Property protection systems deem fashion too utilitarian for copyright protection, however, the artwork on the textile that satisfies human desire, is considered Intellectual Property which is protected by Copyright. Concepts are not protected, simply that specific visual communication of that idea. 


Many aesthetics and motifs that were developed by Traditional Knowledge holders expressed through Traditional Cultural Expressions have, therefore, been adopted and implemented out of context. There are many negative implications that have severe effects on cultural sustainability which calls for a framework for Cultural Intellectual Property.


There are numerous texts that document practices of textile design such as the Journal of Design and Manufacturers from London in 1849 w