Sunday, 29 May 2011

Is Urban Outfitters The Lady Gaga Of Fashion Brands?

US, UK and European based fashion brand Urban Outfitters has strongly denied allegations (fuelled by Twitter) that they lifted/stole/copied/plagiarised/nicked a necklace design by Jewellery maker, Stevie Koerner.
In a statement released by the company who sell on-trend fashion basics and accessories - some with a twist of geek-chic - a spokesperson said the high-street retailer has "unequivocally" not copied Koerner's work. Just so you know, Koerner, designs silver necklaces in the shape of American states with hearts punched through them (pic of "I Heart Texas" necklace, above right) and sells them via herEtsy shop she began in 2005. As you can see, Urban Outfitter's "I Heart Destination" version (above, left) is "quite" similar....even in the name!
The jewellery designer used her Twitter account last Wednesday (25.5.11) to accuse the chain of illegally copying her work, writing, "Way to rip me off", accompanied by images of her necklaces alongside those being sold online by Urban Outfitters.
Within minutes her tweet went viral (Ahh the power of Social Media!), with fashion bloggers and writers re-tweeting her message, resulting in the fashion retailer being besieged with online criticism. Even singer Miley Cyrus joined the Twitter slap-down.
It's not the first time the retailer has been accused of plagiarism either. IllustratorGemma Correll also hinted in January this year, that the brand's “Doggy Greetings” T-shirts were all very similar to her Bonjour/Hola/etc designs. See her blog post about that here. And talking of copyright infringement, designer Iris Apfel recently had to remove a brooch from her jewellery collection for HSN (Home Shopping Network) after it was deemed "extremely similar" to a design by Hanna Bernard, she of French Bakelite.
Yesterday (28.5.11), Urban Outfitters responded to Koerner's claims with a blog post decrying her allegations as false - arguing that many other designers featured lines with similar necklaces. They wrote: "We are not implying that Koerner stole her necklace idea from one of these other designers. We are simply stating the obvious - that the idea is not unique to Koerner and she can in no way claim to be its originator."
Koerner herself said she will now boycott all Urban Outfitters stores, writing on her website, "They even stole the item name as well as some of my copy. I'm very disappointed in Urban Outfitters. I know they have stolen designs from plenty of other artists. I understand that they are a business, but it's not cool to completely rip off an independent designer's work. I'll no longer be shopping at any of their stores, they also own Free People & Anthropologie. I'm going to do my best from here on out to support independent designers and artists."
The designer's Twitter account has also been overwhelmed with supporters, and to keep up with the latest comments, follow her here.
Personally, I'm not on any fashion witch-hunt, but the question is where should we draw the line between inspiration and pure plagiarism?  Oh, and if you're wondering why I compared the fashion chain to Lady Gaga.....just ask Madonna, whose entire wardrobe has been nicked by the little monster from the early 80s right through to the present day!


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