What's Up With Major Fashion Brands Stealing From Independent Artists?

What's Up With Major Fashion Brands Stealing From Independent Artists?

Artists are being ripped off, and there's not much they can do about it.
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If you’ve ever been to a Forever 21 or an Urban Outfitters store, you know that walking through their brightly lit aisles without tossing every colorful top and glittery accessory into your basket is nearly impossible. At $12 a T-shirt, who can blame you? However, every time you purchase a pin, phone case, or witty T-shirt from a major fashion brand like PacSun or Forever 21, you run the risk of unknowingly supporting the theft and reproduction of a small independent artist’s work. Just this month, Tuesday Bassen, a Los Angeles-based illustrator, discovered that the clothing company Zara had blatantly plagiarized her artwork for their newly released summer collection of pins and clothing —

a claim she proved in an Instagram post that showed her designs in a side-by-side comparison with the company’s.

After contacting Zara, she received only a demeaning response from the company that attempted to invalidate the effort and creativity she had put into creating the original designs: “The lack of distinctiveness of your client’s purported designs makes it very hard to see how a significant part of the population anywhere in the world associate the signs with Tuesday Bassen.” The copied items are currently suspended from sale while Inditex, Zara’s parent company, investigates the situation.

This is not the only instance of the Spanish clothing brand stealing designs from independent artists. After Bassen’s claim of Zara’s plagiarism, the owners of the Canadian boutique Crywolf came forward with a similar accusation by posting an Instagram photo of their “Healing Cloud” pin alongside a photo of a nearly identical pin sold by Zara.

Say the designers, “As a small company ourselves, we can’t even really afford any kind of legal representation.”

Zara is certainly not the only large fashion brand whose obviously plagiarized and sometimes poorly reproduced versions of small artists’ designs have been exposed in recent years. Forever 21, the American fashion retailer that brings in over $4 billion in sales yearly, is a repeat offender. In 2013, Forever 21 released a men’s shirt featuring an image of a figure looking up at an etched mountain, reading “You can conquer anything” — an illustration which artist Kelly Bastow had posted on her Tumblr account the year before. When Bastow contacted Forever 21’s complaint center, the retailer was quick to blame their vendors, stating that the “tee was purchased from a third party vendor.” New York artist Jon Contino experienced a similar case in 2012, when a friend sent him a photo of a Forever 21 tank top featuring a very familiar anchor design, which was quickly removed from the store’s website. Also among Forever 21’s accusers is Sam Larson, a freelance artist from Portland, Oregon whose Instagram post of a crop top featuring his art caused an outpour of tweets under the hashtag “#paysamlarson.

Urban Outfitters is also notorious for art theft, as full-time Etsy jewelry seller Stevie Koerner found out in 2011 when replicas of her “A World Of Love” state pendants began popping up in Urban Outfitters stores. Urban responded by claiming that the fact that so many identical pieces exist on Etsy proves that “the idea is not unique to Koerner and she can in no way claim to be its originator.” Three years later, James Soares, who sells art prints on the website Society6, claimed on his Tumblr account that one of his original patterns had been ripped off and sold on a miniskirt at Urban Outfitters (another claim that was met by the piece in question being removed almost immediately from the brand’s website.) The social media attention these and a number of other cases have brought to Urban Outfitters’ plagiarizing tendency inspired the creation of the Tumblr account Boycott Urban Outfitters, and a popular hashtag of the same name, dedicated to exposing the company’s art theft and encouraging readers not to shop there. In an age where every lie, cover up, or false move can be quickly unearthed and spread by social media detectives, it is no surprise that large clothing brands are having a hard time getting away with blatantly ripping off designs without sparking internet outrage, news stories, celebrity statements, and even the creation of a website entirely dedicated to raising awareness of and supporting arts affected by art theft, started by an artist whose drawings have been stolen from the retailer in the past.

So why do so many well-known brands continue to swipe designs, despite the mess of bad PR that is guaranteed to follow? Because they are able to avoid paying for the use of art that has already received a positive response (albeit from a much smaller audience), and there is nothing that lesser-known independent artists can do to stop them. According to lawyer Leila Amineddoleh, who specializes in copyright law, it is hard for independent artists to pursue these types of cases in court, as “pursuing these lawsuits is very costly and a lot of artists can’t afford to go through with them.” By stealing artwork, brands show a blatant disregard for artists who depend on their own creativity, talent, and hard work to support themselves.

Artists can only hope that in the future, major fashion brands will be held accountable for their plagiarism (or even better, show a sense of morality and respect for artists by stopping the theft altogether). For the time being, support independent artists by buying products on Etsy and from www.stoparttheft.com, and from the artists mentioned in this article, whose websites are linked under each of their names.
Cover Image Credit: Fast Company

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30 Things I'd Rather Be Than 'Pretty'

Because "pretty" is so overrated.
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Nowadays, we put so much emphasis on our looks. We focus so much on the outside that we forget to really focus on what matters. I was inspired by a list that I found online of "Things I Would Rather Be Called Instead Of Pretty," so I made my own version. Here is a list of things that I would rather be than "pretty."

1. Captivating

I want one glance at me to completely steal your breath away.

2. Magnetic

I want people to feel drawn to me. I want something to be different about me that people recognize at first glance.

3. Raw

I want to be real. Vulnerable. Completely, genuinely myself.

4. Intoxicating

..and I want you addicted.

5. Humble

I want to recognize my abilities, but not be boastful or proud.

6. Exemplary

I want to stand out.

7. Loyal

I want to pride myself on sticking out the storm.

8. Fascinating

I want you to be hanging on every word I say.

9. Empathetic

I want to be able to feel your pain, so that I can help you heal.

10. Vivacious

I want to be the life of the party.

11. Reckless

I want to be crazy. Thrilling. Unpredictable. I want to keep you guessing, keep your heart pounding, and your blood rushing.

12. Philanthropic

I want to give.

13. Philosophical

I want to ask the tough questions that get you thinking about the purpose of our beating hearts.

14. Loving

When my name is spoken, I want my tenderness to come to mind.

15. Quaintrelle

I want my passion to ooze out of me.

16. Belesprit

I want to be quick. Witty. Always on my toes.

17. Conscientious

I want to always be thinking of others.

18. Passionate

...and I want people to know what my passions are.

19. Alluring

I want to be a woman who draws people in.

20. Kind

Simply put, I want to be pleasant and kind.

21. Selcouth

Even if you've known me your whole life, I want strange, yet marvelous. Rare and wondrous.

22. Pierian

From the way I move to the way I speak, I want to be poetic.

23. Esoteric

Do not mistake this. I do not want to be misunderstood. But rather I'd like to keep my circle small and close. I don't want to be an average, everyday person.

24. Authentic

I don't want anyone to ever question whether I am being genuine or telling the truth.

25. Novaturient

..about my own life. I never want to settle for good enough. Instead I always want to seek to make a positive change.

26. Observant

I want to take all of life in.

27. Peart

I want to be honestly in good spirits at all times.

28. Romantic

Sure, I want to be a little old school in this sense.

29. Elysian

I want to give you the same feeling that you get in paradise.

30. Curious

And I never want to stop searching for answers.
Cover Image Credit: Favim

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10 Things Being A Retail Manager Has Taught Me

Being a manager is always hard, but being a manager in retail is a league of its own.

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Working in retail has really changed me and how I think about life. It is true that I am an optimist and an idealist to a fault, but those traits are overshadowed by the way I now react because of my experience working as a retail manager. I have been at my current job for a year now, and I have been the acting manager for six months.

Being a manager comes with a lot of responsibility. When you work under someone else, you can look out for yourself. But when you have people working for you, you have a duty towards nurturing them and their talents. I see myself as a natural leader, but I really had to come into my own when I first got promoted to the position. I didn't have any aspirations toward becoming a manager. I was offered it and so I accepted it.

Looking back, I really should have thought about the decision more. I said "yes" without weighing my options. Do the pros outweigh the cons?

Just like the food industry, retail workers deserve more credit than they are given for what they do and have to deal with on a daily basis. The higher up you go in the chain, the easier it becomes to be and feel overburdened by everything.

It has been six months and though I've grown, I still have a long way to go. I know being manager has taught me a lot:

1. People show their true selves when they don't get what they want

We want what we want, but we won't always get it. Some people cannot accept this as the truth in their reality and so they fight you. You can tell a lot about a person by how they react to not getting their way. When people don't get what they want, they will be their most real.

2. It's okay to walk away from a difficult person

When someone is intentionally difficult before you even begin interacting, it is okay to breathe and take a moment to process what just happened. Sometimes the best option is to walk away from the source of stress. Other times, it's okay to keep moving on around it because time is moving on, despite how you feel. If you can, you should step away from a difficult person. Maintain a semblance of sanity.

3. Keep work at work

Don't bring work home with you. Being on the clock means being the most productive you can be at the job. Once you clock out, you don't have to take on any other work-related problems. It is your problem when you are in charge, but after that, it's only your problem if you allow it to be. Have separate mindsets between your business and personal lives.

4. Being respectful doesn't mean allowing others to walk all over you

Everyone is allowed to have their own opinions. Opinions are not facts. You are not what they make of you. You don't have to bend to their whims. It is your job, they don't work there.

5. The customer is *not* always right

Allow customers to argue, but don't let any of them get away with imposing their way onto you. They want things and will behave in a manner that might get them what they want. Words are words. They only take on meaning when put together in a way that makes sense to others. Don't let a customer push their version of being right onto you.

6. You can argue with a customer 

Arguing is not a shouting match. It is an exchange of views about a specific stance surrounding an issue. Persuasion can happen in either direction. Arguing is not bad. It can help with getting a better understanding of how people think.

7. You don't owe anyone a service

Do not give in to impossible demands. Just because you offer services, doesn't mean you are obligated to provide certain people those services. Customers choose the store. They are not forced into that choice.

8. Honesty, especially when harsh, is exactly what employees need from their boss

When the circumstances allow it, be as honest as possible with your employees. They will appreciate you telling them what's wrong.

9. Establish clear boundaries with employees from the start

I made the mistake of being too nice and thinking my co-workers are my friends. I let my personal and business lives overlap. I gave them everything and they took advantage of my kindness. Being a good boss requires treating everyone the same by holding everyone to the same standard, starting from day one.

10. Being selfish is the key to winning and surviving every day

You have to preserve yourself: your mental health, your physical health, your energy, your time, etc. Think of you as the most important person. If you are not 100%, how will your team perform?

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