The Maasai People Of East Africa Are Demanding Compensation From Luxury Fashion Labels For Cultural Appropriation

Maasai people

There is no doubt that nothing under the sun is new! We all draw inspiration from the past and recreate versions of it either for interest or for profit. The rule is, if you are using someone’s original creation you should get permission and follow whatever requirements the originator wants for the use of their work/fashion/music/creative content.

With that said the Maasai People of East Africa often replicated by luxury designers are here to collect all that they deserve for the use of their culture.


The Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania embody one of the most powerful images of tribal Africa – but it’s a guise that’s becoming increasingly imitated.

Companies around the world have, for some time now, continued to exploit the Maasai’s iconic cultural brand in a bid to infuse a patina of exoticism to their products and increase sales.

The most familiar, perhaps, harks back to Louis Vuitton’s 2012 spring/summer men’s collection which included hats, shirts, and scarves inspired by the Maasai Shuka – a traditional African blanket cast in colorful shades of red and blue.

The key issue here is that the Maasai people aren’t compensated for anything sold under these luxury brands’ names despite having helped them sell billions of dollars worth of goods worldwide, according to Light Years IP, a Washington DC nonprofit that works on public interest intellectual property issues internationally.

As a result, another group known as the Maasai Intellectual Property Initiative (MIPI) has been created to challenge companies referring to or copying the signature Maasai style without a licensing agreement.

t hopes that by working with the community and forcing companies to obtain licenses from the Maasai that reasonable funds can then be distributed to the people.

“Nearly 80 percent of the Maasai population in Kenya and Tanzania are living below the poverty line,” the website explains.

“Yet their distinctive and iconic cultural brand and intellectual property concepts have been used commercially around the globe.”

Just as Burberry has the right to copyright and trademark its signature check, so too the Maasai should be able to protect its traditional designs.

If the Maasai people are paid what they are owed, they should be collecting checks from 80 companies and at least 10 million in licensing fees for every year of use. Read the :


  1. You know I actually agree. It’s just an argument of whose intellectual property rights we do and don’t take seriously. Like if I wanted to produce a line with the Louis Vuitton logo on it best believe I’d get in trouble if I didn’t have permission. They should at least make an effort to not be appropriative AF. But I appreciate that it’s harder in this context cause it’s a whole culture’s iconography and not just one company’s logo. So the whole distribution of proceeds is messier. I’m interested to see what comes of it


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