“If you make a copy of another shirt, it would only be a failure of your being” – says Maria Grancea from Avrig, Sibiu county, one of the thousands of those keeping of the traditional spirit in Romania.

Plagiarism was reason of public shaming in a rural community and grudges lasted a lifetime. Because, even if we all follow existing models when we create our shirts, we imprint them with our own personality and you can’t find 2 identical shirts in millions.

What’s to keep and what’s to change? How to preserve heritage adapting it?

Well, we all strictly respect the cutting patterns. They define us to a region, with a specific climate, landscape and resources. It’s easy and logic: you chose the material and the cut that keeps you warm in the winter, cool in the summer and allows you to move without restriction. The cutting pattern is the answer for the basic needs of comfort. Next, zooming into it, we see that the embroidery is placed in various doses, in certain places and this defines us to a ethnic group, even more precise, to a valley or to a group of villages. Because embroidery is about identity. And as you keep looking into details, you’ll get those thousands of variations that make each combination unique.

Well aware that they were creating wearable art, women often “signed” their textiles; most visible are the signatures on rugs as usually the authorship signs on the shirts were placed on the hidden parts (usually around waist).

How can we deal with this issue today, when individual intellectual property seems to be better protected than the collective intellectual property ? How much can we “borrow” or get inspired from somebody else’s creation, expressing admiration without causing harm ?

While eager to unleash our own creativity, we’ve learned that it’s safer, at start, to follow up models, until we make sure we understand all the “laws” that govern traditional textiles and how we can break these laws with reason.

After trials and errors, we’ve learned that what might seem as stiff rules are in fact creative guidelines, boosting up our creativity, not limiting it. They are nothing more than aesthetic criteria, valid as well today as in the past. They define “our vision” of beauty.

So, when you admire another shirt and you want to have one, make a replica that is yours. Bring change with good purpose and arguments for what to change and why. Import of new or foreign elements is welcome, again, when done with a reason and when the element is translated and adapted to fit into the new environment.

Always remember that your shirt is supposed to illustrate your vision of the world, yet we all live in the same world, governed by the same laws and principles: it can’t be day without night, no sun without moon, rivers are flowing down, water is the source of life, insects are vital for biodiversity, nothing is lost, everything transforms, and so on.

We are welcome to get inspired from other shirts and from the world itself, keeping in mind that freedom comes along with responsibility. Each shirt we make can be a statement to inspire future generations, long after we’re gone.

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