Fast-fashion retailer Forever 21 has been sued by designers from Anna Sui to Threadless to Gwen Stefani to Anthropologie for copyright infringement. Over the years, more than 50 designers claim that their creations have been "repurposed" — without permission of any kind — by the company. Their latest victim is eco-fashion label Feral Childe, which hand designs all its prints, which tend toward the unique and funky.
Designers Alice Wu and Moriah Carlson didn't even know one of their illustrations (which they typically print on sustainable fabrics like organic cotton or silk) had been appropriated until they spotted a girl walking down an NYC street wearing a dress with fabric that looked like theirs — but the dress wasn't. Later at a party, they saw the frock on another woman, and this time ascertained that it had recently been bought at a Forever 21. They tracked it down online and in stores, and picked up one of the dresses to examine it.
Needless to say, the designers were pretty upset at the copy, and they are suing. Forever 21 is known to settle out of court and has done so in the past, moving on to keep copying others' designs. Feral Childe told Ecosalon: “Without any consideration or respect for the origin of the artwork, Forever 21′s mass reproduction of our textile design without our permission is extremely unethical, and in direct violation of the law. It’s frustrating that this enormous company, with over a billion dollars a year in revenues, would dare to poach the artistic creations of a small company such as ours.”
As if it's not bad enough that Forever 21 is a 'bizarre knock-off empire' (as they were called by Jezebel, in a piece that explored some of the company's questionable practices) they produce low-quality clothing (aka, fast fashion, aka, throw-away clothes) that get worn a few times before heading to the landfill. Without putting too fine a point on it, the company is a living, profit-making culmination of everything that's wrong with fashion today: low- or underpaid workers, low-quality products that don't last made from polluting fabrics, and disregard for the creative integrity of other designers. And yet, the store just opened its flagship store on 5th Avenue.
A bill, called the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevent Act, is working its way through Congress and would expand copyright laws to protect fashion designers. If you want to support independent designers, check out this page, which has links to petitions as well as the option to buy the protest T-shirt by Feral Childe pictured above that says "Stop the Fashion Pirates."