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Nine Times Fashion Industry Giants Copied Smaller Brands

With the rise in coverage about the ugly truths about fast fashion, we have become quite accustomed to the scenario of the fast fashion retailer copying the non-fast fashion brand. There was the time Nasty Gal famously copied a Balmain jumpsuit and then mistakenly took credit for the real thing when Taylor Swift wore it on the red carpet or the time it copied Givenchy’s Rottweiler bag or Alexander Wang’s scuba dress. And then there were the countless number of times Steve Madden has copied footwear designs from houses like Dior, Balenciaga, McQueen, Aquazzura, etc.

It is rather easy to forget, given the frequency with which fast fashion brands are the ones doing the copying, that legitimate fashion brands copy, too. Here is a look at nine times the legitimate, big fashion brand (read: non-fast fashion brand) copied the legitimate, little fashion brand …

1. Chanel vs. Pamela Love – We hold this one near and dear to us, as TFL was the first to break this story back in 2012. You may recall that as part of Chanel’s Fall/Winter 2012 collection, the 100+ year old Paris-based design house showed an array of crystal-adorned bangles that bore a striking resemblance to the crystal block cuffs that New York-based emerging designer, Pamela Love, showed a year prior in her Fall/Winter 2011 collection. While the house issued an apology and vowed to refrain from selling the bracelets at issue, that was strike one for Chanel.

2. Chanel vs. Mati Ventrillon – Fast forward to December 2015 and Chanel came under fire again for copying. This time, Fair Isle, Scotland-based knitwear designer Mati Ventrillon spoke up, claiming that a number of garments from the house’s 2015 Metiers d’Art collection were direct copies of ones that Chanel’s research team purchased from her during the summer of 2015. The garments at issue took the form of women’s and men’s sweaters, and again, Chanel issued a statement. As of now, the house that Karl helms has not offered the wares for sale.

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3. Zuhair Murad vs. Prabal Gurung – How about the time Parisian couture house Zuhair Murad copied young New York design darling, Prabal Gurung? Lebanon-born Murad, who is a red carpet favorite amongst Hollywood mega-stars, seemingly replicated a dress from Prabal Gurung's Fall/Winter 2012 collection for his own Spring/Summer 2013 collection. Unlike Chanel, Murad never released a statement or withheld the frock from being stocked in stores. Instead, he dressed Selena Gomez in the copy for the May 2013 Billboard Music Awards and never looked back.

4. Mulberry vs. Proenza Schouler – Established London-based brand, Mulberry, had fashion bloggers writing up a storm upon the release of its Alexa bag in 2009. Named after famed British model and television personality, Alexa Chung, the majority of the press surrounding the bag centered on insiders calling, “Copy!” and the copy they were referring to was Proenza Schouler’s “it” bag, the PS1. As PurseBlog noted in 2009, “Once the Mulberry Alexa started to show up online, the main buzz surrounded the likeness between the two [bags].”

But the buzz was not exclusive to Internet fodder. In fact, when Lazaro Hernandez, one half of the Proenza Schouler design duo, testified before Congress in 2011 on behalf of the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act, proposed legislation in favor of providing specific copyright protections for fashion designs, he specifically cited the lookalike and the damage it caused to his brand as a reason why designs need more protection to fight copies.

As for the Alexa, it is still being offered for sale by Mulberry, and has amounted to one of the house’s best selling accessories over the past several years.

5. Versace vs. KESH – Versace came under fire this past year after visual artist, Kesh, called out the Italian fashion house for ripping off an original print from the 2013 collection she designed with American Apparel. Kesh, an English artist and designer based in Los Angeles, took to Instagram in the spring of 2013 to call out Versace for selling what she called a $650 "rip off" of her $50 "Face Le New" T-shirt (Kesh's design, above left).

According to the artist's Instagram posts, the Versace design (pictured above, right) sold out in a number of sizes right off the bat and the house continued to sell it even after the copying claims hit the mass media.

6. Jeremy Scott vs. Indie Artists – Where do we begin with good old Jeremy Scott? In the past several years alone, Scott has been called out and subsequently sued for copying two different artists. The first: Santa Cruz-based graphic artist Jimbo Phillips, who alleged that Scott copied an array of his original images and put them on garments as part of the Fall/Winter 2013 collection for his eponymous label. The two parties ultimately ended up settling the lawsuit before trial, with Scott issuing an apology, and expressing his regret.

And then he did it again. Two years later, in August 2015, Scott was sued in connection with his Fall/Winter 2015 collection for Moschino, where he moonlights as creative director. According to the lawsuit filed by Joseph Tierney, the street artist referred to as “Rime,” the defendants, “Moschino and Jeremy Scott – two household names in high-fashion – inexplicably placed Rime’s art on their highest-profile apparel without his knowledge or consent.” That lawsuit is still pending in federal court in California.

7. Michael Kors vs. Cushnie et Ochs – In late 2013, the rather outspoken Roberto Cavalli rather hypocritically (considering the number of copying lawsuits in which he has been named recently), spoke out about American fashion giant, Michael Kors, saying: "He's one of the biggest copy designers in the world. I just want to tell him to stop copying … He copies everybody!” And Cavalli isn’t exactly wrong. While Kors’ bag designs tend to target fellow big houses (think: Louis Vuitton, Celine, etc.), a number of his garments have targeted smaller brands.

One such brand: Cushnie et Ochs, the emerging design duo of Parsons graduates known for their sexy cut-out dresses and bodycon styles. Kors replicated one of the cut-out frocks from his fellow New York-based brand – the one that Karlie Kloss wore to close his S/S 2013 show. And judging by the fact that he subsequently created an electric blue version for the supermodel to wear to the Grammy Awards that year, he was not sorry … at all.

8. Opening Ceremony vs. Hood By Air – In 2013, right when New York-based conceptual fashion brand, Hood By Air, was at the peak of its popularity, established New York-based cool label (and retailer), Opening Ceremony, decided to take a page from HBA’s book. As you likely know, HBA got its start primarily based on the interesting placement of its logo on t-shirts, shorts, and sweatshirts in defiance of the very strong less-is-more trend that was happening at that particular moment in fashion in terms of logos.

This is where Opening Ceremony comes in. While the designs by Opening Ceremony aren’t so egregious that Hood by Air likely has any cause of action (such as trademark infringement, since Opening Ceremony swapped HBA logos for its own), the HBA inspiration was very, very obvious. And in case that’s not enough, OC stocks HBA’s wares in its stores.

9. Gucci vs. ACRONYM – For the past couple of seasons, Gucci has been the one being copied (thanks largely to the new aesthetic heralded by new creative director Alessandro Michele and the overwhelming demand as a result) but that has not always been the case. In fact, less than three short years ago, Gucci was the one doing the copying and the victim was Berlin-based tech/fashion brand, ACRONYM. Yes, for its S/S 2014 menswear collection, Gucci trotted a model down the runway in a jacket that was a dead-ringer for ACRONYM’s GT-J5A jacket (above, left), which the tech brand introduced for Fall 2007 and revived beginning in Fall 2010.

And in a move that was commonly see in fast fashion retailers (like Nasty Gal), Gucci not only did not respond to the claims of copying, it went ahead and manufactured, marketed, and sold the copied jacket with no shame at all.

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