When a large brand or company steals designs and ideas from an independent artist, it is generally not viewed as a tragedy. Since it happens all the time, it isn’t much of a surprise when a company like Kylie Cosmetics, Urban Outfitters, or Zara takes ideas from an independent artist who wouldn’t be able to fight them back. However, when this happens, it does bring up an interesting discussion about copyright, hypocrisy from fashion blogs, and whether we should be giving money to these corporations when we can support small businesses and independent artists.
The first article that I looked at was from The Guardian, and it discussed the controversy Zara faced last summer when the company was accused of stealing designs from illustrator Tuesday Bassen. The comments in the article generally share the same point of view and agree that Zara is in the wrong for stealing Bassen’s designs. Many commenters are happy that The Guardian ran a story on this problem, because this kind of issue is usually overlooked. One commenter stated that artists should receive the same amount of protection that a copyrighted video on Youtube will get. Another woman brought up an interesting idea, which was that Zara should collaborate with these artists and house them in their companies, rather than blatantly stealing their work and not giving them credit.
The comments on Refinery 29 about the Zara controversy are generally neutral towards the issue, especially since this happens all the time. Their message to Tuesday is: “Welcome to the Club”. One person said that Zara couldn’t have stolen the designs since they were so basic, and anyone could have created it. What I found interesting was that many commenters pointed out the hypocrisy of Refinery 29. They are running a story on Zara stealing designs from an independent artist, yet right under the article there is another article on what to buy from Zara.
In October of 2016, rapper Yung Lean faced a similar problem when Urban Outfitters copied his designs from his merchandise label. The article that High Snobiety ran on Yung Lean’s battle with Urban Outfitters also has same type of comments that the Refinery 29 article had. The comments were very short, but in general they agreed that Urban Outfitters was in the wrong. Again, people felt like the blog was being hypocritical, because while they are discussing this company ripping off an independent artist, there is another article talking about Urban Outfitters’ new clothing line.
Dazed Magazine also featured a story about Yung Lean’s problem with Urban Outfitters last October. There aren’t many comments, but the people who did comment made some interesting points. One woman said that since consumers give so much money to these corporations, companies feel as if they can take advantage of the artists that can’t fight them back. To fight this problem, we need to buy from independent artists, and support their businesses instead of supporting a brand like Zara or Urban Outfitters.
Another story that was very thought provoking dates back to 2011, when Urban Outfitters was accused of stealing work from street artist Cali Killa. This story is 6 years old, but I still felt like it brought up an interesting discussion about what it means to take from other artists, and if it is okay when it is public street art. In the comments section of this article, many are not surprised that this happened because Urban Outfitters has a history of plagiarizing works of art from independent artists. A few commenters said that since it is unauthorized street art, it’s fair game for the company to take the designs for their merchandise.
One of the more recent controversies was when Kylie Cosmetics was accused of stealing a look from makeup artist Vlada Haggerty on their Instagram page. Of course, with their long history of cultural appropriation, most people weren’t surprised that someone from the Kardashian clan has stolen a concept. But in the Refinery 29 article, many don’t believe that Haggerty was ripped off, since it was an Instagram post and not something that Kylie Jenner directly profited off. They feel that while it was wrong to recreate the picture and not give the artist any credit, it wasn’t actual plagiarism since it was simply a post on Instagram.
In closing, most people agree that large corporations should not steal concepts from independent artists. However, many feel like this problem happens so often that no one should be surprised.