These Major Fashion Houses Are Ripping Off Independent Artists, And Getting Away With It

As much as I like to pretend that the world of fashion is a dress-up dream land, sometimes this industry does something so messed up it cannot be ignored. A post on Instagram by freelance artist Sam Larson caught my attention: It was a picture of Larson’s original typography next to a Forever 21 graphic tee, with nearly the exact same graphic. “I normally keep this stuff private, but this is just too ridiculous. I hope you plan on paying me royalties for stealing my art @forever21,” read Sam’s caption.

Fast fashion brands like Forever 21, Target and Urban Outfitters have repeatedly ripped off freelance artists, whose work can be seen anywhere from Etsy to Instagram. What really gets me is when a fashion house that’s supposed to be aspirational, unique, and iconic stoops so low as to blatantly steal somebody else’s hard work. This past summer, some of my favorite designers have ripped off the work of independent artists, and given them nary a cut of the ka-ching. If this was high school, they would be swiftly kicked out for plagiarism. But even though this isn’t high school, one thing remains the same: The popular kids always win. The companies could easily pay a licensing fee to use the artwork, but why would they when they can commit intellectual property theft and emerge unscathed? *Sarcasm*. In the interest of the unfortunate truth, here’s a rundown of the fashion houses that have gotten away with this bad behavior.

1. Yves Saint Laurent

Three years ago, Forever 21 released a long sleeved chiffon dress printed with tiny lipstick tubes, which can be seen on the right. It wasn’t that cute, even though the lipstick print was totally adorkable (dorky + adorable). And the dress still wasn’t that cute when it marched down the runway as part of Saint Laurent’s FW 2015 collection. The Saint Laurent version can be seen on the left. The only real difference between the pieces was the price tag, which was jacked up 150%. Marie Claire’s contributing editor Nicolette Mason saw the imitation in the collection and tweeted it to the world. Seriously, Saint Laurent, Forever 21? That’s just shameful. 

2. Moschino

Jeremy Scott has landed himself in hot water for ripping off the designs of a graffiti artist named Joseph Tierney, publicly known as “Rime” (aka Jersey Joe). Jeremy Scott and Katy Perry wore the graphics to the Met Gala last spring. In the picture above, you can see that Scott’s coat features Rime’s graphic and Moschino’s logo. To make matters worse, Scott and Perry rolled up to the Met Gala in a spray painted Rolls and accessorized their looks with Moschino brand fake spray paint cans, as if they had painted their outfits themselves. “The idea of putting graffiti, or ‘street’ art, on ultra-expensive clothing was meant to provoke and generate publicity for the brand/designer,” states the claim.

3. Versace

Remember American Apparel’s 2013 graphic collaboration with LA artist KESH? Those eye-printed bikinis and black and white tees that featured graphics of angular faces (seen on the right). Versace certainly does, because they released a $650 copycat tee which they called Medusa (pictured left). “This is not only artwork from a show that took me two years to develop and create. It is not only artwork from a collection that I created for American Apparel to provide something affordable and accessible to supporters of my work,” Kesh told The Cut. “But this is also my face!” Versace gave Kesh the finger, hard, by stealing her hard work and then reaping the profits. 

If you’re not creative enough to put out a collection with original artwork, what are you doing calling yourself a creative director? 

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