Oh Zara! We had hopes for so much more from you! Zara is facing backlash after an Indie artist posted pictures showing the clear similarities between her work and the Spanish company’s designs.
On Tuesday, L.A. based artist Tuesday Bassen released an Instagram picture with quite the caption finally acting on the host of notifications she had received from loyal fans and followers:
“Over the past year, @Zara has been copying my artwork (thanks to all that have tipped me off—it’s been a lot of you). I had my lawyer contact Zara and they literally said I have no base because I’m an indie artist and they’re a major corporation and that not enough people even know about me for it to matter. I plan to further press charges, but even to have a lawyer get this LETTER has cost me $2k so far… It sucks and it’s super disheartening to have to spend basically all of my money, just to defend what is legally mine… EDIT: Some of you are asking how you can help. Repost and tag them, on Twitter, on Insta, on Facebook. I don’t want to have to burden any of you with the financial strain that comes with lawsuits.”
Bassen’s Instagram post includes a screen cap of the correspondence her lawyer received back from his very expensive enquiry. Having mulled over the notifications received from her fans and followers, Bassen decided to speak out against the brand and its treatment of emerging creatives like her. Upon having her lawyer contact the brand, they were met with a (just slightly) condescending reply.
Zara’s lawyers commented that, “The lack of distinctiveness of your client’s purported designs makes it very hard to see how a significant part of the population anywhere would associate the signs with Tuesday Bassen. This is our firm view, and being fully aware of the 3rd party notifications that you have brought to our attention. In this last regard, please note that such notifications amount to a handful of complaints only; when it is borne in mind that millions of users worldwide visit the respective websites monthly (Zara: 98,000.000 average monthly visits last year, Bershka: 15.000.000 average monthly visits last year), the figures clearly put those few notifications into sharp perspective.”
It’s no secret that huge clothing corporations have been burned many times after copying work from emerging artists; but to what extent? Seeing Zara’s name on the list was by no means unexpected – small independent artists like Crywolf Clothing, Big Bud Press, Coucou Suzette and many more have fallen victim to their less that scrupulous ways. Zara and associated companies Pull & Bear, Stradivarius and Bershka have all been recorded assimilating other artist’s designs into their clothing without any prior permission.
The fashion giant’s history with this sort of things is long and sordid, and most recent faux pas has been something of a media fanfare. After a number of emerging artists came out of the woodwork to support Bassen’s claim, the story has gained an impressive amount of traction; covered by news outlets across the world. Stories of the fiasco have been posted on Refinery29, The Guardian, Nylon Magazine, Buzzfeed and many, many more besides.
This insane media coverage prompted a statement from Inditex, parent company of Zara, to Refinery29. The international Spanish clothing company acknowledged that its stores had utilized externally sourced artwork on some of its pieces and stressed its respect of intellectual property rights. Upon the making of this announcement, Inditex suspended sales on all suspect garments and purportedly went out of their way to have their legal team get in contact with Bassen’s barrister to arrange a solution to the situation.
This event has led us back to a serious issue – that large brands are not held accountable for transgressions such as this, and that they know it. Zara’s reply to Tuesday indicated no remorse and certainly no efforts to rectify the issue, and had she not been brave enough to push the issue, who knows when (or if) they would have addressed the issues themselves.
There are so many contributing factors to this situation, but the reality is that someone out there is actually affected by hardships like these. People like Tuesday Bassen don’t deserve to be creating fantastic original artwork, only to have it stolen and utilized by a retail giant with extensive resources and a larger reach.
Particularly given that, as stressed by Inditex in their statement to Buzzfeed, “Inditex has more than 600 designers in house that create more than 50,000 designs a year, it has the highest respect towards each individual’s creativity…”
Legal avenues need be available for these individuals, so that they can have a fair judgment without going bankrupt in the process. Going up against a retail giant is almost certainly a daunting prospect, and according Stephanie Drabik, co-owner of Crywolf, “There needs to be a stronger, communal, collective lawyer force that can help companies that don’t have as much money, don’t have as much power.”
Based in New York, designer Adam J. Kurtz created a website that compared original pieces to pieces copies by Zara and the like, and gave people the opportunity to buy from the original artist. Given the feedback they have received so far, both believe that it is important even to raise awareness surrounding the issue, so that more people have a chance to get fair treatment after an experience such as this, and I tend to agree with them on this one.
While fast fashion consumes all, and this sort of thing is beneficial for quick turnovers and fresh content, it could be time that we recenter our vision on sustainable, small and unique businesses in order to benefit individuals instead of large companies.
Photos courtesy of @tuesdaybassen