Tra My Nguyen recently took to Instagram to reveal some striking similarities between an image posted by the French-owned Spanish fashion house and work found in her portfolio. Accusing the brand of “stealing, appropriating and profiting from POC (people of color) artists’ ideas.” Balenciaga’s image features a motorbike covered in an array of colorful garments.
Nguyen, who is based in Berlin and of Vietnamese heritage, claims that Balenciaga drew heavy influence from her master’s project which explores Vietnam’s female motorbike culture. It is also interesting to note that a Balenciaga recruiter that visited the Berlin University of the Arts requested to see her portfolio.
A screenshot also shows an email exchange that reveals a Balenciaga employee requesting Nguyen’s portfolio with interest in taking on the student as an intern. Ultimately communications ceased and Nguyen was “angry and speechless” when she saw the work that looks extremely similar to her efforts.
Nguyen notes that she wanted to make her situation public to shine a light on the “exploitation of young creatives,” more specifically Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOCs). “Not only (do big brands) steal students’ artistic ideas and intellect, but also expect them to work for free as interns,” she said. Accepting that the situation is part of the “systematic exploitation” that has “become normality in the fashion industry.”
Speaking to CNN, Nguyen believes that an apology would be an appropriate response. “Furthermore, I expect them to acknowledge their toxic design practice of appropriating ‘low/read culture’ and trying to make it ‘high fashions,” she added. Finally, calling on universities to step up and protect the intellectual property rights of their students.
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I’m so angry and speechless! @balenciaga has yet proved again for stealing, appropriating and profiting from POC artists’ ideas. Last year a recruiter from @balenciaga came to my uni @udkfashion @udkberlin to have a look over our master’s class projects. She requested my portfolio TWICE!I send her my portfolio with process and editorial pics! I never got a reply after that. They have never asked me for permission!!! STOP APPROPRIATING ‘low seen/read culture’, this is so typical of @balenciaga!!! I feel betrayed and hurt as it’s a part of my culture, it’s an artistic process and not a random fashionable aesthetic you can profit on! My master’s project was about female motorbike culture in Vietnam. Rooted in my own family history, from my mother selling her mother bike in order to migrate to Germany, Vietnamese motorbike culture have been a core focus of my work for the past few years. The idea was to deconstruct the emerging street style in Vietnam, dubbed as ‘Street Ninja’. I collaged UV protection clothes from Vietnam over a motorbike to create ‘wearable sculptures’. By doing so, the project suggests a strategy for reimagining the female motorist as protagonists, countering their discriminatory experiences. What is your inspiration? Why are you even draping garments over a motorbike? What do you want to tell us with this pic! TELL ME!!! I demand an apology and also DELETE this pic! I am not your moodboard! PLEASE SHARE!!! @diet_prada @1granary @ichbinkeinvirus #outcall #balenciaga #belanciege #ripoff #culturalappropriation #appropriation #dietprada
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