What happens when a huge brand rips off your designs, from someone who knows firsthand


IRL  • 

What happens when a huge brand rips off your designs, from someone who knows firsthand

Spoiler alert: it sucks

Stories about fast fashion chains lifting designs from independent artists and smaller labels are, sadly, pretty common.

Hometown mall favorites like Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Zara have all been accused of stealing designs numerous times, and that's not to mention the allegations of theft that celebrities like Kylie Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski faced for their clothing and swimwear lines, respectively. It's clearly a problem for non-corporate designers, and a relatable one too — regardless of the industry you're in, everyone wants credit for their work.

So when artists take to the internet to complain about their work being lifted, those claims often go viral, which is why I had so many articles to link back to in the last paragraph.

But what does it actually feel like when a major company steals your work, and what happens after the outrage fades and the negotiations (or lack thereof) begin?

babe talked to jewelry designer Laurel Hill, who recently took Anthropologie to task for copying a pair of earrings from her in an Instagram post.

"I found out when a friend excitedly sent me a screenshot of an Anthro promo email, with "my" hoops pictured on a model," Hill said in an email. "My stomach dropped, I couldn't believe it, considering we'd worked together before and Free People used to carry those exact earrings."

Hill was outraged and upset that a company she'd worked with previously would openly steal her design. "Being copied, or perceiving that I've been copied, isn't a new thing," she said. "But being so blatantly ripped off by a massive company who thinks they can get away with it, that's a new experience."

Lucky for Hill, her angry post garnered media attention that eventually led to Anthropologie pulling the earrings down from their site. But as of Wednesday, Hill had yet to receive any kind of direct response from Anthropologie itself.

There's also the question of what to do with the surplus earrings.

"Best case scenario, they'll donate the unsold earrings to a program like Project G.L.A.M or Becca's Closet, or auction them off and split the funds among the workers who made them. Realistically, they'll do neither," Hill said. "Honestly, if they'd just permanently cut this shit out and be decent people we can call it good. Again, realistically, not gonna happen."

And unfortunately, in order to see any kind of monetary compensation, Hill and artists like her usually have to take major retailers to court.

babe reached out to several other artists who'd made headlines for getting their designs lifted, but most of them didn't respond. The only artist who did declined to comment, which leads me to believe that settlements were paid and non-disclosure agreements were signed. Or maybe I'm just shitty at writing emails.

Hill, for her part, sees litigation as a potential item on her horizon. "There's been talk of a class-action suit against them, so we'll see," she said. "Maybe we can make it less appealing to exploit people. There's strength in numbers."