Earlier this week, Los Angeles-based artist Tuesday Bassen accused international clothing retailer Zara of stealing several of her designs for its clothing and jewelry. Her Instagram post featured side-by-side comparisons of Bassen's art next to Zara's designs, which incorporated suspiciously similar elements. Bassen was incensed by the company's response, which denied any legal wrongdoing and insinuated that Bassen is not well-known enough for the public to confuse Zara's designs for hers. In a follow-up social media post, Bassen noted that she had retained "an aggressive lawyer" and is pursuing litigation.
In fashion, runway "knockoffs" are nothing new – many clothing companies produce low-cost variations on high-end designer duds, usually taking sufficient steps to change the design enough to avoid legal problems. But lesser-known clothing designers and independent artists sometimes find their work emblazoned on an international retailer's latest designs without attribution or payment. As Zara's response indicates, it can be difficult and expensive for unknown designers to fight back against multinational corporations, particularly with no guarantee of success. Bassen lamented on her Instagram post about Zara's dismissive reply that "[just] to have a lawyer get this LETTER has cost me $2k so far."
But litigation is frequent, particularly against repeat offenders like Zara, which the Guardian noted has been the target of similar accusations in the past. (Adam J. Kurtz, another artist who has complained that Zara appropriated his designs, created the website Shop the Stolen Art, which provides links to buy the original designs directly from the affected independent artists.) Forever 21 is another retailer which often comes under fire for appropriating work by other designers and independent artists. Late last year, artist Sam Larson accused the chain of copying his artwork for a very similar t-shirt design; press coverage noted how frequently that chain, too, has been accused of fashion plagiarism.
Fashion law is a fascinating topic of legal research, which includes a number of intellectual property and other issues. For background information, try a search of the Duke Libraries Catalog for the phrase "fashion law" to see available titles, like 2013's The Little Book of Fashion Law or 2014's Fashion Law: A Guide for Designers, Fashion Executives, and Attorneys. Although more general in their coverage, many intellectual property treatises also include some discussion of fashion design; consult our research guide to Intellectual Property for additional resources.
There are also a number of excellent and up-to-date blogs dedicated to fashion law. The Fashion Law was created by Julie Zerbo, who also co-authored a chapter in Fashion Law: A Guide for Designers, Fashion Executives, and Attorneys. Sheppard Mullin maintains The Fashion & Apparel Law Blog. Arent Fox also maintains Fashion Counsel. All three blogs provide regular updates on recent litigation and fashion law news.
For help locating these or other fashion law resources, be sure to Ask a Librarian.