B.C. First Nation takes on Ralph Lauren over knockoff sweaters
Published Saturday, February 7, 2015 6:46PM EST
A B.C. First Nation tribe is taking on international fashion designer Ralph Lauren for selling knockoffs of its traditional design.
The Cowichan tribes say they will ask Ralph Lauren to remove their name from the company's "Buffalo Full-Zip Cowichan" sweater. The item is sold online for $200.
“It is illegal and it’s appropriation and intellectual property violation,” said Charles Seymour, chief of the Cowichan tribes. “We’re going to take steps to communicate with Ralph Lauren and ensure that our product and name is protected.”
Dora Wilson, a Cowichan knitter who learned to knit from her mother more than 50 years ago, agreed with Seymour.
“They marketing under false pretenses you might say, because they aren’t genuine,” Wilson said. “It’s been passed down from generation to generation – the skill of knitting.”
This isn't the first time a large retail chain has been accused of using the Cowichan name for profit.
The Hudson's Bay Company sold knockoffs of the hand-knit sweater during the 2010 Winter Olympics. A licensing agreement was eventually reached after the tribe complained. And just last week, Nordstrom dropped the name "Cowichan" from their sweater line and apologized for using it.
The tribe has urged people to purchase genuine Cowichan products made by the First Nation.
“I don’t like that because the sweaters, they come right from us,” said Emily Sawyer-Smith of Hill’s Native Art in Duncan, B.C. “They’re all family-owned designs and I feel like they copy our patterns and they shouldn’t.”
With files from CTV Vancouver and CTV Vancouver Island