Underwear brand Berlei has been forced to apologised for plugging Indigenous artwork by a non-Indigenous artist.
Underwear brand Berlei has been forced to apologised for plugging Indigenous artwork by a non-Indigenous artist.

Berlei apologises for Indigenous artwork rip-off

Women's lingerie brand Berlei has been forced to apologise for a cultural appropriation "mistake" after hundreds of users accused an artist working with the label of ripping off indigenous art.

Angry Instagram commentators descended on the label's account after they posted a picture of a winning entry to their Pink Bra Project Awards featuring Aboriginal art, prompting angry users to question the artist's heritage.

One user commented: "Is this person Aboriginal? If not this is gross appropriation and I can't believe such a big brand is celebrating that."

"This is cultural appropriation … way off on so many levels," another wrote.

"This needs to be fixed. Cultural appropriation and profiting of (sic) it is not okay,"

Berlei followed up on Wednesday with an apology about the design, in which the brand confirmed the artist, named Nicole Onslow, was not Aboriginal.

"We have confirmed this morning that this print was submitted by a non-Indigenous artist and used without appropriate credit to the Traditional Custodians of the land in which we live, learn and work," the statement posted to their Instagram read.

"This was a collective mistake by the artists and ourselves, and we both deeply apologise," it said.

"Each entry was judged virtually, and as such the indigenous elements of this particular entry were overlooked," it said.

Artist Nicole Onslow issued her own "deepest apologies" on Instagram after the fallout and said she "naively" took inspiratiopn from Indigenous artworks to depict her battle with cancer after losing her mum to the disease.

"I want to express my deepest apologies for the grave offence I have caused by my submission to the Berlei Pink Bra Project Awards," Ms Oslow said.

"Once the award was announced, I was ashamed to see that I had truly stepped across a line that didn't sit well with me and ... I formally withdrew my design from the competition.

"I was really just trying to design a print that celebrated Australia, its strong women and its flora."

"I wanted to share that story of my cancer journey visually."

Artist Nicole Onslow. Picture: Instagram.
Artist Nicole Onslow. Picture: Instagram.

The statements did little to quell angry Instagram users who expressed their frustration at the "cop out" apology that attributed indigenous heritage being "overlooked" to the virtual judgment process.

"Claiming all cultural elements were completely missed simply because it was "judged virtually" is a whopping cop out," a user said.

"It's so easy to see the indigenous elements, even on my phone screen it doesn't take much effort," another said.

"This wouldn't have been 'overlooked' if you had adequate representation at your company," another said.

The controversial print has not been deleted from Berlei's Instagram account.

Berlei has been contacted for further comment.

olivia.jenkins@news.com.au

@byoliviajenkins

Originally published as Berlei, artist apologise for Indigenous artwork rip-off


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