This is my black cat print, est. Oct 2010.
I came up with the black cat print when I was a sophomore at Parsons, so it really should have died with all the other terrible work I was doing then. It also isn't very representative of what my style has become. But, it was the first thing I put online that caught the attention of bloggers, which lead to customers and then real clients. Looking back at my "career" (er, the year and a half I've been out of school) I credit all my success with this image. I still sell products printed with it, and so much of my work, cat-related and otherwise, is derived from it. It was the first pattern I ever made! And so, I feel really protective over it, and it was a big blow as many individuals and companies began to copy it. Many were very poor imitations on Etsy, or DIYs on fashion blogs, but a handful, like the examples below, were larger manufacturers.
Some of these make me more upset than others. The H&M cat print is the most different from mine, and is likely more inspired by the trend than my exact work. I'm mostly bothered that I may have contributed to the manufacturing of thousands and thousands of cheap polyester items. It also makes me sad that the BeckSöndergaard and Joyfolie lines below are carried at Anthropologie, a client I really respect and love working with, and who first released a big run of black cat dresses in Summer 2012.
I learned a very sad, very expensive lesson from all of this: anyone can steal your work and there isn't really anything you can do. I had a licensing lawyer send a couple cease-and-desists, but they don't do anything. The companies know you're too small to actually sue them, and they'll just put you off until you give up. Public shaming seems to be the best action.
In the end I try not to think about it. My work is a very small dot in the world, and images, trends, and products cycle at such a fast pace. I'm just going to keep making new work, and at least I can tax deduct all the lawyer's fees.
Update: Here is a brand new one by Dear Creatures, Holiday 2013. The shape is a little different and it's knit, but let's be real.