It's nice to wake up famous. What designer doesn't dream of everyone wearing their clothes? What artist would refuse a sudden recognition, from a collaboration with a big brand that will introduce his audience to his work? However, sometimes such collaborations are one-sided. You wake up and see that Instagram is bursting with messages with congratulations: your work was recognized in someone's new collection. But there was actually no cooperation: the work was taken without your knowledge. Yes, we are talking about plagiarism. And, unfortunately, he is not uncommon in the fashion world.
Plagiarism is especially common in the mass market - for example, in Zara. In 2016, Los Angeles-based artist Today Bassin recognized her designs in the Spanish brand's badges: even details such as the location of the dots on the strawberries coincided. The artist's lawyer contacted Zara representatives, but their response only made matters worse: “There is no distinguishing feature in your client's intended designs. It is hard to imagine that for a significant part of the population anywhere in the world they would be associated with Tuesday Bassen. " The comment was accompanied by a note that Zara's website is visited 98 million times a month. It sounded like it was okay to steal from artists if they weren't widely known. Or at least safe.
Bassin's friend, artist Adam Kurtz, did not give up on the situation. He brought together 40 other illustrators who accused the owner of Zara, Inditex, of plagiarism, launching Shop Art Theft, which was written about by the world's largest media. After that, the tone of official messages from Zara representatives changed. They talked about respect for the "individual creativity" of artists, and the connection they have with Bassen's lawyers, and the fact that they are conducting an internal investigation, and the removal of controversial items from sales. Since then, Zara has not had massive plagiarism scandals.
The fashion industry will not remember high-profile disputes between companies of the same scale as Inditex and Russian artists and independent designers. Except for the situation when New York Magazine journalist Matthew Schneier caught the Swedish mass market H&M in copying Gosha Rubchinsky's signature aesthetic elements. "Goshaism made it to H&M," he wrote in 2017 under a photograph of socks that read "Fear Nothing." However, the designer himself ignored this. But Russian mass brands sometimes cooperate with their compatriots unilaterally, and the latter, as a rule, are ready to defend their rights.
Copying is the best recognition
The ADED art group is known to most people who are interested in art and fashion, as well as to those who walk the streets of Moscow with open eyes. Black and white stickers with artist tags can be found on poles, fences, and various buildings. Famous ADED and outside the country. Among the fans of the art group is the founder of Off-White and the creative director of the Louis Vuitton men's line, Virgil Abloh, who has released a bag for the KM20 concept store in collaboration with ADED. Unexpectedly for themselves, the artists also worked with O'stin, a mass market brand owned by Sportmaster. In his collection, a bag was found with recognizable tags of the team, as if copied from the very model from the collaboration with Abloh.
Judging by the tone of the post on Instagram, it didn't become a big drama for ADED. The art group simply indicated the fact of copying and clarified that they want to achieve justice, because brands do this with independent artists all the time. Some subscribers perceived the situation as an absurd curiosity, while others did not understand what the problem was, because copying is the best recognition. Such "congratulations" in such cases sound quite often: many do not understand that for artists their work is not just a nice hobby, but also a source of income. Brands that steal work make money off of the artists bypassing them. And this is not a charity event that should please the artist.
“It’s important not to be afraid to talk about it and fight for your rights,” explains the ADED art group. “Of course, copying can be considered a kind of recognition. But it is worth remembering that this is done primarily for the sake of material gain and earnings."
The photo of the bag was quickly removed from O'stin's account, and the item itself was removed from sale. According to ADED, representatives of the brand, who initially responded to the complaint with the advice “to state all claims and wishes on the site in product reviews,” nevertheless contacted them. Now the artists are negotiating with the company. This was confirmed in a conversation with by the PR-service of O'stin: “Currently, our company is conducting a check on the fact of using controversial graphic elements. According to its results, measures will be taken to resolve the current situation."
It is an accident
How did this situation become possible? After all, ADED are not unknown artists, whose works brands can copy without tangible consequences. Their style is recognizable. Sasha Krymova, co-founder of Dear Progress, an agency that represents Russian designers abroad, explains that plagiarism is not always targeted. “In large brands, teams are made up of several people: leading designers of directions, seniors, beginners and interns in general. Typically, these stories come from an oversight of creative directors or just a heavy load. Still, it is difficult to create four, six, eight, twelve collections a year,”she comments.
Another incident comes to mind here. In 2018, Natalya Bryantseva, co-founder of jewelry brand Avgvst, accused the Sunlight jewelry chain of plagiarism. According to her, the company copied pendants in the shape of lollipops (and literally, together with an advertising campaign), selling them more than ten times cheaper than the original - for 1,494 rubles. against RUB 16 800 By that time, Bryantseva had been producing candy jewelry for three years; they became one of the most recognizable items in her collections. But the designer did not patent the form, so the matter did not go beyond the pre-trial claim.
1 of 2 Original Avgvst pendants © instagram.com/avgvstjewelry Fake Sunlight © sunlight.net
Sunlight representatives apologized for copying the photos and promised to remove them from social media. However, the products themselves were not removed from the sale: you can buy them on the site to this day. The story of Sunlight and Avgvst did not end there. After some time, the jewelry chain was "inspired" by other works by Bryantseva, so the incident can hardly be attributed to a simple oversight.
Sunlight representatives did not publicly comment on the plagiarism. Refused to answer questions about this in an interview with Forbes and the co-founder of the network Sergei Gribnyakov. As Sasha Krymova says, this is a common strategy: “They try to ignore almost all obvious copies. Such cases rarely go to court - rather, there are reputational consequences. When big brands borrow from small ones, only public outcry can make a difference. Attention will be paid to the victims, customer loyalty will increase, and sales may increase."
Obviously, Sunlight doesn't care much about reputation. The jewelry chain constantly announces liquidation, luring shoppers into an unprecedented sale before leaving the market, but still remains in the market. However, those who want to buy jewelry for next to nothing do not care.
What is the right thing to do for a company if plagiarism (presumably unintentional) has occurred and reputational risks are perceived as significant? First of all, do not hope that everything will be forgotten by itself, but admit a mistake, contact a designer or artist and start a constructive conversation. “The ADED situation affected maybe 0.001% of O'stin's real audience. But the brand nevertheless removed the product from its online store - this is the right move, says the co-founder of Dear Progress. “The ADED supporters did the right thing, supporting the brand and attracting attention. And the logical second step for O'stin would be to offer to do some kind of action with the creative team. For example, for the guys to paint their down jackets."
The art group itself did not begin to tell what solution to the conflict would suit them: all statements will be made upon completion of negotiations with the mass market. But the official collaboration is really considered one of the most positive outcomes of such stories. Just remember the Gucci Cruise 2018 collection, in which the creative director of the brand, Alessandro Michele, quoted Dapper Dan, the designer who dressed hip-hoppers of the 80s and 90s in imitation of luxury goods. The Italian was criticized: he allegedly profits from the heritage of a forgotten Harlem couturier, moreover, completely distorting its meaning. Michele's words that this is not plagiarism, but homage, had no effect. "Everyone paid tribute to Dapper Dan, but no one paid him," Dan himself commented on the situation. The conflict was resolved beautifully:Gucci made an official collaboration with the designer and opened the Gucci by Dapper Dan boutique in Harlem.
Still from the Gucci / Dapper Dan lookbook © gucci.com
Another story with a good ending is recalled by Sasha Krymova. In 2016, Acne Studios released sandals, one-on-one borrowed from The Shoe That Grow, a manufacturer of shoes for children and teenagers in developing countries that can be adjusted to fit the height of the foot thanks to rivets. Acne Studios, convicted of plagiarism, withdrew the product from sale, began an investigation, and most importantly, transferred the money to the company.
Copy or inspiration?
The line between copying and inspiration is sometimes difficult to draw. Russian designer Vika Gazinskaya often finds herself in the center of controversy about plagiarism: she has repeatedly noticed things that repeat her products from international brands, and in 2017 she found herself in a similar scandal, but on the other side. Fans of the American artist Brad Troymel recognized a work from his Freecaching series in the Vika Gazinskaya collection for the spring-summer 2018 season, which they did not fail to point out under the photo of the lookbook on Instagram. “Too obvious to hide. This is a source of inspiration. And I have the right to use art in my clothes as much as I want,”the designer answered. At some point, Troemel himself joined the discussion, who called the situation not inspiration, but “pure theft”.
“If my work was a source of inspiration to you, as you claim, then you would probably say so in a conversation with Vogue. But you hid it, thinking that your world was so big and mine was so small that it would allow you to escape punishment if you robbed me and no one would notice. You are an international fashion brand selling products that are direct copies of my work for thousands of dollars. I am a working artist trying to figure out how to pay rent next month,”he commented. However, after several letters from the lawyer Gazinskaya with the hope of ending the persecution of the designer, silence followed. The situation did not end with anything. But the sediment remained.
The sneaker world has its own atmosphere when it comes to inspiration and plagiarism. In a conversation with, Artem Belikov, co-founder of the ITK modern clothing store, recalls two stories. The first is about Warren Lotas, a Los Angeles-based designer who produced sneakers that differed from the Nike SB Dunk in just one detail. This is an image based on the Jason Voorhees mask overlaid on the Nike Swoosh. The designer chose color combinations of 2005, 2006 and 2007, which are several times more expensive on the resale market. According to the publication Complex, as a result of the sale of shoes, Lotas could have earned over $ 10 million, but Nike got involved in the situation in time, declared the sneakers to be a fake, secured a ban on their sale and even returned funds to customers who had already received their pairs.
The second story is about Nigo, the Japanese DJ, producer and founder of the A Bathing Ape (Bape) brand, who presented the Bapesta sneakers, which completely repeated the silhouette of the Nike Air Force 1, only instead of the "Swoosh" on the side panel flaunted the shooting star Bapesta Star. “The uniqueness of this pair was in the colors and materials that Nike did not offer at the time: patent leather in bubble gum color, combinations of several colors in one sneaker, nubuck, suede, camouflage patterns. The list can be continued without limiting imagination, - comments Artem Belikov. - Subsequently, Bapesta came out in collaboration with Kanye West, Daft Punk and Marvel Comics, and Bape never had any problems with Nike. Why?
1 of 2 Bapesta, Bape © Press Office Air Force 1, Nike © Press Office
The fact is that bootleggers are divided into several categories: some completely copy the product, while others, like Warren and Nigo, customize, showing creativity and, it is important to note, without misleading the buyer, who clearly understands what is offered to him and why it is sometimes more expensive than an authentic pair. Here the brand decided who and at whose expense was promoting its product, damaging its reputation, and whose work, whose background, on the contrary, fueled interest in the original silhouette."
It is difficult to imagine this among designers and artists who are not connected with sneakers and are not part of one company or a friendly circle. But it is all the more interesting to look at how the same issues are still viewed in different communities.