Maori have become vogue in Europe, with chic French designer Jean Paul Gaultier's cheeky plundering of the moko to promote his latest collection.
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Gaultier's ads, in the European editions of the fashion bible Vogue, have stirred a storm, and not just for using Maori art to promote clothing and sunglasses.
Fashion blogs have picked a cannibal theme, with one headed: "I'll eat your liver and still look fabulous."
Victoria University Maori business senior lecturer Aroha Mead said her first impression of the Gaultier images was that they were ugly. "It's definitely Maori, no question about that."
Some of the images were also culturally offensive, particularly a female model with a moko and posed sitting with her legs open.
While worried about the lifting of images, Ms Mead believed it was something of a commentary on New Zealand.
"It's more vogue to be Maori outside New Zealand than it is to be Maori inside New Zealand."
She said some people believed that the use of Maori imagery was regarded as flattery.
"I take the line that if copying is flattery, tell that to Coca-Cola and Harrods, who rigorously protect their designs."
The message coming through from Gaultier was that Maori culture was exotic and beautiful.
"The tragedy for us is that we are not perceived that way in our own country."
The Maori arts board of Creative New Zealand has created toi iho, a registered trademark used to promote and sell Maori arts and crafts.
It allows for partnerships with non-Maori, but a spokeswoman said there had been no contact with Gaultier.
In July, the Waitangi Commission finished hearing submissions on a claim to rights in respect of Maori knowledge, and indigenous flora and fauna.
The findings are expected next year.
- Fairfax Media
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