Fast Fashion Retailer Releases Collab With Frida Kahlo Corp 

November 1, 2022

The Chinese fast fashion giant Shein announced last week a new collection inspired by the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. The collection features apparel and accessories with signature Kahlo motifs and patterns. 

Shein has shared a post on their social media networks where the company states that Kahlo is  “an icon that represents female empowerment.” Later in the post, they write, “Her passion of hers, her artistic work and her vivid colors have inspired us to create the ‘Shein X Frida Kahlo’ collection in her honor.”

Shein accompanied the post alongside the image of a model as she wears clothing from the collection and imitates Frida with her signature hairstyle and makeup. 

Who Signed Off on the Frida Collab? 

The standard with most artist and commercial collaborations is that either a family member or the organization attributed to the artist will handle licensing for commercial use

The company offering the licensing is the Frida Kahlo Corporation, a Panamanian-based company. The complexities of the development of the firm stem from the fact that in 1954, Frida Kahlo died without a will. 

Following Mexican Law, Kahlo’s property rights were then inherited by her niece, Isolda Pinedo Kahlo, since she had no children. 

Isolda Pinedo Kahlo’s daughter, Maria Cristina Rome Pinedo, was granted power of attorney over these rights in 2003. The following year the Frida Kahlo Corp was formed with the primary objective of licensing and commercializing the Frida Kahlo brand worldwide. 

Licensing Issues in the Past

In recent years, the corporation had perhaps exceeded its reach on certain licensing and trademarks for assets like the artists’ image. 

Some family members, including founder Maria Cristina, had taken legal action against the corporation, notably when Mattel released a barbie doll depicting the late Mexican painter in 2018. 

Relatives argued in a Mexican court that FKC did not have the right to sell the licensing to the toy company. A judge ruled in favor of the family and halted sales of the doll within Mexico’s borders. The doll remained in circulation and sold out in the rest of the world. 

Complications over the control of FKC first occurred in 2004 between the corporation and the descendants of Kahlo, Maria Christina Romeo, and Mara de Anda. Since then, they have tried to regain control over the firm, in which Romeo, the artist’s great-niece, has a 49% stake.

Frida Rolling in Her Grave 

Kahlo was a proud socialist, using her art as a means of protest against capitalist ideologies and influence in her native Mexico. Her response to the commercialization of her likeness and artwork, we can only assume, would be negative. 

Additional outrage has circulated in response to the fast fashion company’s reputation and exploitative working conditions. 

The company has been criticized consistently in the past for its unethical and unsustainable production practices as well as for stealing designs. It’s hard to imagine that Kahlo would accept such a business collaboration if alive today. 

The Bottom Line 

Artist foundations and commercial collaboration with a variety of brands is prevalent today. Many blue chip artists have partaken in commercial collaborations with various brands and organizations. 

However, this practice calls into question the integrity of the artist’s work and philosophy, especially if deceased, and the valuation of their artwork at the market. At this time, there has been little data on the correlation between commodifying an artist and their own pattern of success.

Still, with this example specifically, the commodification of Kahlo’s likeness and artwork with a company such as Shein, is something the artist would be disgraced by. The company itself stands as a figure for the ideologies and practices Frida spent her lifetime protesting against.

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