Monday, November 25, 2013

knockoffs


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.

Top row, Pepaloves Spring 2013; bottom row, H&M Summer 2013, dress for sale here

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.

Top row, BeckSöndergaard Fall 2013, tote here and scarf here; bottom row, Joyfolie Spring 2013

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.

45 comments:

  1. This infuriates me to no end. I want to write so many angry letters when I see things like this!

    You'd think that Urban Outfitters/Anthro/Free People would have learned from the huge outcry they received in the past for copying independent designers. The Made In Kind project was a great step forward, but it would seem it was all just a show.

    Your designs are far superior to all of these, Leah. Fuck 'em. <3

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    1. you're the best, thanks Liz.

      I think a lot of the time Urban inc. doesn't do these things knowingly, they'll carry products by or contract out design work to others who copy. still doesn't make it OK, but it's a little better. I know Anthro doesn't carry the cat things of the lines I posted above, but it bothers me regardless.

      fuck 'em, yep.

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    2. i'm a little late to this convo, but as a former print designer for free people - i can tell you with certainty that they do this knowingly and with no remorse. designers are paid to travel, bring back samples and many times create knock offs of silhouette and print. after working at a few other fashion brands, i realized this is how they all work. it sucks. even original artwork I created for Free People, I have seen almost exact knock offs in Forever21. sorry about your work being copied :(

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  2. I've definitely seen these knockoffs around and have made a point of telling anyone who will listen that its a knockoff of something you did. Its so frustrating and I hope that you never ever stop creating because people want to make quick money off of your design. xo

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    1. you should be flattered. this is telling you that your designs are in demand :) keep creating that all you can do for yourself.
      obviously with bigger companies they will always feed on the smaller fishes and is the reason why as a conscious consumer, i do not buy my clothes from big companies. H&m, urban outfitters, forever 21, and the list goes on. these huge corporations do no good for anyone, except provide cheap wasteful unconscious clothing.
      keep doing what you do, and your designs/creations are appreciated by your true clients.

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  3. Oh this makes me so angry! Its crazy how much this is happening, you would think big companies would be able to come up with their own new stuff! I hope you can try and ignore it and just keep ahead doing your own brilliant thing!

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  4. This is very upsetting. We are supposed to be working with each other and not against each other. At least that's how I see it. I'm starting to work with a lot of young designers and one of my top concerns is this exact issue: the copying of the work and NOT giving any rights!

    It would make me so embarrassed to work for any company that copies someone else's work.

    It has also happened around here that companies are copying the ideas and concepts in advertising. I used to work at an ad agency and when we saw this (the same idea, actually, the same spot on tv) Twitter would go crazy! people are not dumb! give us more credit. --> just stop copying!

    I love your work. Keep at it. You are a great artist. :)

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  5. I saw one of those items (the bag) on Plumo in the UK and was shocked at how blatantly similar the print is. This is such a shame but I really hope your originality and creativity shine through in the end!

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    1. I saw it it person the other day and it really caught me off guard! they flipped some of the cats around and added extra lines, but it's really the exact shape, texture and all! oh well. thanks for your support! xx

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    2. Oh it's so deflating to see a knock-off! But all these challenges teach you something. I am so impressed by your work and style, so screw em all, you just live and learn.

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  6. I saw a Dear Creatures dress with what was pretty much your cat print at a boutique the other day and was really disappointed that they would rip off another designer, as I thought they were kind of an indie brand too. I was hoping maybe you'd sold them the pattern but from this post it doesn't look like it. I love your illustrations and hope that the knockoffs don't hurt your business too much, and the the public shaming works. I would hope the bloggers that were so excited about your cat print could make some publicity about this too!

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    1. thanks for pointing this out Keeley! I hadn't seen that one until now. It is a bummer because I did think they are a relatively small designer too, and I know a lot of the people who wear their stuff are the same people who have supported me in the past. Someone else told me that it looks like they pulled the dress from their website and instagram, so it's possible it was a mistake. I know sometimes companies contract out work to other designers and don't even realize they're infringing. thanks so much for your support! xx

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  7. I'm sorry but this artist is delusional to truly believe she deserves any credit for this in the slightest. 2010? I've seen cat stencil clothing since I was in middle school, and many brands and fashion designers have done pretty much exactly the same design and layouts much earlier than 2010. I get it, she's hurt that there's similarities, and maybe she did get a big boost in her career through this, but she is essentially saying "I made polka dot clothing, how come no one is giving me the credit?" or "I put red and purple stripes on my dresses first". She's putting herself wayyyy too high on some "fashion pedestal" right now like she is some pioneer in the clothing world. Cat fashion clothing has blown up since pretty much the internet started having cat jokes. I apologize for my crass way of looking at this, because she is certainly talented, but not a fashion guru who needs to act like a child because someone tweaked her 4x4 inch stencil.

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    1. My thoughts, more or less, exactly.

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    2. You clearly haven't been around the internets or you'd know how big this print was. She has a very valid point actually.

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    3. "She's putting herself wayyyy too high on some "fashion pedestal" right now like she is some pioneer in the clothing world."

      "...not a fashion guru who needs to act like a child because someone tweaked her 4x4 inch stencil."

      ouch. I think when you start attacking a person's character it means your argument does not have much to stand on. She does have a very valid point, no matter how you twist it. I think someone doth protest too much.

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    4. No but there is a limit to how far you can credit where the stealing or pulling occurred. I totally think Pepaloves pulled the print, but I would say H&M is a far stretch. I think the first comment was trying to say that a print of a cat face is becoming pretty common, and to say that you were the first or have the only right to it and that all others must be stealing from you is putting yourself in high regard. Take for example, Miley Cyrus's outfit from the AMAs (http://www.becauseiamfabulous.com/wp-content/uploads/miley-cyrus-2013-ama-performance-.jpg) I would argue it is in the H&M print realm. Just food for thought.

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    5. When I walk past a Rebecca Minkoff rip off that is being sold for $50 in a crappy leather store... that has the exact same hardware, tassel placement, zipper detailing-- LITERALLY the same bag... you just consider that to be another "polka dot" because purses with chains have been around forever?

      The fact is, this is Leah Goren's design. This is not a little shape that can be compared to a polka dot. Just because the cat culture has blown up doesn't mean that it is okay to abuse someone's successful design. Stop trying to play the devil's advocate in these situations and realize that a lot of companies are out there to make a quick dollar. Using a design for inspiration is one thing, but copying a design is another.

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  8. I love your work & have been a fan for a while now! One thing I have learnt, as a creative, is that you need to continue making & designing new things so that you are always ahead of the curve & setting the trends, while the stragglers & big retailers follow behind.

    Unfortunately when you publicly shame retails, often, fingers start to be turned around and pointed at you, as seen in the above comment & also in a recent incident of something similar which happened in South Africa a few weeks ago. Don't let it get you down, just (try) ignore it & continue to make new and amazing things!

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  9. I love that print & your work & your cat! I do think some are 'inspired by' & then some are plain old rip offs. I wanted to buy your dress when I first saw it but as I have a big bust I thought it wouldn't suit me, Calivintage pulled it off but my bust is bigger. Anyway blah blah my point is if the original garment did not suit someone it's nice to see it reproduced by Dear Creatures in a different style that might suit me, from a consumer point of view. But I won't buy it because I respect that you're an independent artist, it's a shame they didn't just license it from you.

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  10. Having watched a few "etsy-inspired trends" make it to the big retailers and having known someone (via blog) to whom something like this has happened, I totally disagree with the anonymous above. Yes, cat prints are a common motif, but this particular one was distinct, clearly a creation of Leah Goren, and to see that take off as a trend, while heartening in that the artist obviously struck chord with moment in style and culture, so good for her sense of what's in the air that'll serve her well, but no, that does not justify folks copying it for commercial purposes.

    I think that DIY-ing something like this because you're crafty and on a limited budget and it strikes your fancy, is fine, but there's a disturbing trend of not just small etsy makers being a little too inspired by each other (which makes sense 'cos you're a crafty person and can just go 'oh that's cool-I could make that!"-a whole other can of worms- ad to that folks in countries where production costs are cheaper making the stuff inspired by designers where they're higher and oh my-can 'o worms indeed), but retailers like Urban Outfitters actively trawling through etsy to find designs to copy, instead of contacting the artist to see if they would license their print to them.

    The experience that other person I know had, the legal department of the company pretty much had a memo prepped to explain to her how their product was slightly different enough that there was nothing she could do about. They were pretty blatant about how they had just copied her design.

    I mean yes, if you spend time on the internet, this doesn't come as a surprise to anyone, but that doesn't make it okay. Sorry it happened to you. I'd boycott these companies, but I already do.

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  11. Ahhh, this post makes me SO mad! They should be encouraging smaller designers or collaborating them when they like their work....not ripping them off! This would absolutely break my heart if it happened to me :(

    Love your work, hang in there!

    xx -b.

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  12. My goodness! I mean the first ones are almost identical to yours!
    It's not just the print (and texture) for some of them, but the similar print with a very similar style of dress.
    So unfortunate that nothing can be done about it :(

    Keep making great stuff!
    Fiona

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  13. It's so upsetting to see all of this! I came across your Etsy store a few months ago and love your work. Keep making beautiful things regardless of who's out there copying!

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  14. It makes me so mad! I saw a girl at the bus stop wearing the H&M one and I almost said something. They always say Imitation is the best form of flattery, but I disagree. What could be more insulting then being stolen from? Remember though, it hurts more to have to steal than to be stolen from. You'll always have great ideas and some desperate person in a Creative Dept. knows s/he's full of shit. LOVE YOU.

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  15. Kudos for having some balls and posting this! Unfortunately this has been going for a very long time. And the internet has made it now so much easier for people to just take your work. I love that you're passionate and defending your work. Sure cats have been popular for a while, and obviously you're not the one who started the trend. But you did something different and that's why you grabbed peoples attention, and so I'm sure you'll continue to keep everyone intrigued.

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  16. I wonder if the design would have been so readily copied if you had produced it under a brand name rather than as student work? It quite possible would have been but it never hurts to make sure one has placed a copyright on your design. It costs nothing.The very best of luck to you in the future.

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  17. If I may say so, I definitely think your style has grown and 'moved on with the times'. All your drawings and paintings inspire me (and many others for sure) so much! Be it the doodles or ladies drawing night stuff you share here and on Instagram. I think the stuff you do in your free time (for fun) owns all the shit these people put out! Don't even bother. You're always ahead of the game, in my humble opinion :>

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  18. so happy you posted this! I am such a fan of your work and everytime I see these knockoffs walking around I cringe. Keep up the lovely stuff xo

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  19. i just hope you don't suffer too much of this situation and you're able to protect yourself and your creative process (mine thought is clearly an utopia, but still).this is at least what i have thought it is the most important thing to learn from this kind of problems >> don't allow anyone hurt your creative process.
    the fact that you're many steps ahead of them makes you an easy target unfortunately.
    here and there when i come across on instagram at the pics of your patterns, i immediately think this would look so good on bag, on a jacket etc.and i bet there are lots of them thinking the same thing too, because your patterns express most common things in such a personal manner, and by the way they're subversively feminine.
    i think the situation could have been plenty worse if you hadn't actually put your designs on physical objects.the fact you put them on tote, dress and plate still helps, it consolidates your designs.and the fact you've finally exposed this on your blog, your site is important.lots of us are seeing your knock offs all the bloody time.except etsy, first time i saw it at h&m here in italy and couldn't have not believed myself, they did it so easily,without changing a single damn thing.
    i see no solution to this unfortunately, it is a speed of internet that contributes too and makes your work depend on other people's working ethics.it is crazy.

    so i think, keep up to your game, it's the only thing important when comes to this.you win in a long run.
    xx dessa


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  20. I saw the cat print in H&M and thought of you - what a complete joke. I am a lawyer in the UK and, if I were in the US, I would absolutely have represented you pro bono. Companies shouldn't be able to get away with this. Keep doing what you do - because it's wonderful xx

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  21. & then this...
    http://babasouk.ca/products-page/table-art/kitty-cat-magnet-trio/

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  22. That is too bad ;( Do you register/copyright your patterns?

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  23. oh dear Leah, i hope you'll be more recognized as a designer/illustrator. i once read an article about a girl who came up with the laser cut shaped of countries/cities necklace and now they are being mass-produced by big corporations.

    if it's any consolation, i have my society6 shopping cart filled with one of your daisies (my fav pattern) phonecase and am considering to get the cat tote bag.

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  24. Everyone knows it is yours!! I have been folowing your work since the beginning and when I started to see this shit online and in the stores I knew. When I graduate and get a proper paycheck again you can bet I will be suppoting your work. You have proven to be a genuine force in the crafting, design, and small business world. All these big brands stealing work, Etsy selling out, it's out of control. So many 'full time crafters' have their husbands and boyfriends behind the whole operation so the female wave of small business owners is a lie. You have a loyal fanbas and when the trends die you will still be maing original work. Good on you for posting this! Sorry I get really passionate about this topic. I have been trying to put out a children's book and it is so risky.

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  25. Here's another example :-( http://www.becksondergaard.com/shop/woman/e-woolly-cat-tote

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  26. I just saw the Dear Creatures dress while shopping online and it made me so angry! I came here hoping to see it was licensed but nope, it is a rip. I really can't spend money on shops that rip other designers. I'm sorry you have to put up with this - I've seen this design copied so many times on Etsy I'm not even surprised it gets stolen on a larger scale, just mad! You are such a talented designer and I love this print because it is how I found your work. --Samantha

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  27. Wow so sorry that happened. As an artist myself stuff like this drives me crazy!!! It takes so much work and effort to run you're own business and create new inspiring work. Hopefully people wont support this blatant rip off. Jess H

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  28. This reminds me a lot about Truche's state necklaces with a heart in them. They got really popular on Etsy and suddenly Urban Outfitters copied the designs and she got pretty upset about it. They eventually stopped selling them but there's tons of other places online that do still sell them, and there's not a lot she can do about it. In the end they're just silver silhouettes of the various states with a heart cutout. Not really an original concept at all. (http://fashionista.com/2011/05/urban-pulls-state-necklaces-ripped-off-from-an-etsy-designer-but-were-they-really-hers-in-the-first-place/)

    A lot of the examples you posted look like complete rip-offs of your work, I agree. But some of them are just black cats. You can't really say that you invented the black cat shape. Sure, it's popular, but the shape itself is not an original thing any more than something like a heart pattern is. The H&M examples look nothing like yours, beside them being black. Sometimes people just have the same ideas as other people and there was no harm intended.

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  29. I saw your black cat print on a blog I read and knew immediately that it'd be a hit. I think there is a small area where imitation can be considered flattery, but what's happened to your work is blatant copying for the sake of making money. It really sucks that it's happened, but I'm glad you wrote this. I definitely think twice about shopping at chains that seem to carry so much of the same things I see people hand-making. Word spreads quickly so I hope we can still protect the original artists that are out there sharing their creations!

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  30. I am so sorry for you for this experience. I have worked in the fashion business to know that this is a common and frequent rule. Brands copy each other, year after year, sometimes making just slightly changes. Somebody here in the comments said that the H&M dress is not of a copy of your work, but I completely disagree with that. Because it is clearly inspired, and they made, (as said above), little changes. Your design doesn't consist only in the silhouette of the black cat but also in the different rows you display the same silhouette. All those examples are the same kind of silhouette in rows. Clear a copy of you work. I hope you can protect yourself with a copyright now on. Keep up the good work!!! :)

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  31. This is a matter concerning 'intellectual property".

    Intellectual property represents a rule by the government that gives the holder of this so called 'property right' (patent or copyright) the right to go to a government court and use the force of the state/government against someone else who has not committed an act of trespass against anyone. For example, if I have a patent or copyright on a new pattern design, I can get the government to use force against someone else selling a pattern that I think is too similar to mine and make them stop making it. Intellectual property (copyright and patents) essentially asserts that a person can't use their own property in a certain way (the way they want). The government has given to the intellectual 'property' holder a legal right to veto someone else's use of their own property. It's like saying "You are not allowed to use your own property in ____ way. If you do it, you could go to jail, etc." By creating something out of your own property, no matter how similar it is to someone else's creation, you're not taking/stealing/using someone else's property. You are using your own property in the way you want.

    There is nothing truly 'original'. Everything you have made has been inspired by the material around you, material created by others and/or already existent in the world. Nothing is exactly the same. Create more beautiful stuff and have confidence.

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  32. I have been a fan of your work for such a long time and when I started seeing all these rip offs of your cat print I was so disappointed. The fact that small businesses are doing it is even worse. I actually made a post on my instagram about how lame it is to see so many people making bootleg versions of what you originally created. I can't image how upset this has made you. Fuck the bootlegs.

    -P

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  33. I understand your frustration and I really do feel for you but I have to agree with the comment above, the design isn’t very original and surely you’re not the first to come up with it. Keep on truckin’ though.

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