October 25, 2007

Is Forever 21 Being Branded A Copycat Retailer?

We've seen this before... Forever 21 has been accused of copying Anna, Sui, Diane von Furstenberg (left), and Gwen Stefani's Harajuku Lovers line among others. Now Trovata is the newest label who is making claims that Forever 21 is copying their designs...

(Article From the New York Times)
From Newport Beach, Calif., comes word today that John Whitledge, the designer of the preppy sportswear label Trovata, has joined the throng of designers taking Forever 21 to court for copying its designs. In a lawsuit filed last week, Mr. Whitledge claims Forever 21 sought to deceive its consumers by copying Trovata designs, patterns, prints and labels over several seasons. More than 20 such cases have been filed against the retailer in recent months, including one by Anna Sui, who cited 26 potential cases of copying of her prints.

But what constitutes copying in fashion? It’s a question that designers have been debating with renewed interest over the last year since the Council of Fashion Designers of America began lobbying Congress to extend copyright protection to clothing design. Nine senators have introduced a bill supporting the designers, but the measure has generated concern among intellectual property experts because they say it will be too difficult to determine what constitutes an original design. Can the length of a sleeve or the style of a neckline be copyrighted? (Prints and logos, on the other hand, are protected as original art.)

Two things make the Trovata case interesting. Mr. Whitledge is the first designer to cry foul over men’s wear designs, which are typically less distinctive than women’s. Also, Trovata is not exactly known for its prints, but rather for generic preppy styles that include polo shirts, chinos and striped cardigans, which are hard to describe as “original” under the current copyright laws.

But Trovata also cites fairly compelling examples in its case that its clothes were indeed inspirational to Forever 21: a purple and white striped cardigan with multicolored buttons (but in a different order in a version sold at Forever 21); a cream-colored hoodie with toggle buttons and a printed lining (the print skewed at Forever 21); and a multistriped polo shirt with a yellow, red, purple and black combination (reversed at Forever 21). Then again, it will be tough to argue that Trovata owns stripes.

Related Story:
Before Models Can Turn Around, Knockoffs Fly

I had no idea that the industry could be so brazen. Your thoughts on the knock-off trend?


  1. Wow! That's tough. I would say that if is copiny that's stupid! Where's the creativity on Forever 21's part? I know fashion is not about jackin people for designs(LOL).

    The Bee is out!

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  3. I love Forevs, but they are always knocking other designers off. It won't stop me from shopping there, but its the sad, sad truth.

  4. Well, there is a thin line between outright copying a design exactly and replicating a look, design, or style. the fashion world works this way, it is usually a top down trend, with the premiere designers invoking the "Looks" for a season and then all the little guys clamouring to get on the bandwagon with less expensive choices of the same look or style.

    I don't think they'll be able to win, simply because this is how fashion works, always has, always will. I think the only way they could possibly win in court is if there was an exact (and I mean to the T) replica and they were trying to pass it off as the real thing.

    There is an expectation within the industry that the less expensive brands will copy the trends set by the top dog designers. If they didn't, where would the designers be? they wouldn't be the leaders in fashion then would they?

  5. GET OVER IT YOU SNOTTY BASTARD DESIGNERS! =) Not everyone can afford your expensive ass clothing and we want to look fashionable too. Gwen you didn't have money for shit when you were younger so you should know how we feel. I adore you to the fullest, but learn how to humble up.

  6. I think it is possible for a lower-end designer to take a lot of inspiration without making such blatant copies. Aren't the F21 guys the ones who are all religious and holier-than-thou? I wonder how they justify thisline for line ripoff. @Maryann, I don't know about all designers, but from my experience the costs are much higher to do fine work in Italy or the U.S. than they are when you rely on overseas child and slave labor to produce crappy cheap ripoffs. I'm sure there are designers who are getting a retail price at 1000x their cost, but so is F21. Personally, I base my price on my costs and charge the minimum amount possible but my labor costs are very high. At least I know everyone who works for me is an adult who makes a good living. Can F21 say the same? Shop vintage if you want cheap. It's better quality anyway.

  7. I could care less. Forever21, plz continue to knockoff designer duds!! Because I will continue to shop there. I am sorry, but I don't have money to throw out the window like that on a top. I declare some name brand clothings shouldn't cost as much they do!!! It's ri-darn-diculous.

    You all don't feel my pain because many of you probably don't wear Forever21 styles. However, think of a designer who you love and imagine getting the exact same clothes for 80% off the original cost. It would make you happy right? My point exaaaaaactly.

  8. i agree with the majority. i can't afford hundreds on clothes... but a knock off to me is fine.

    first off, are they REALLY losing sales because of it? um no. because the people who CAN afford their top of the line stuff wouldn't get a knock off... they'd pay the $500+ for it. (or whatever it cost)... and they aren't losing MY sale cause i can't buy it ANYWAY... duh.

    secondly, and this is just my opinion... but i think it's only illegal if someone is trying to pass off the item as the exact name brand. (i.e. fake coach bags) when its not the designer, but you copy it completely, and then try to pass it off on purpose as the designer...that's completely different than copying it and not putting a designer name to it. i can't 'copy' harry potter and put the name jk rowling on it. but i can change some little details and put my name on it. i'd sell it for a buck. if i got published. if someone wants to buy my cheap knockoff book its ok, but if they want to blow their $10 bucks on the real deal... fine. and if you think people aren't copying harry potter and changing only the name and minor details you should go to the bookstore. it happens all the time.

    /end rant

  9. one more thing...

    where designers are getting smart is when they have their OWN cheap lines.

    i.e. isaac m. for target, and others... and simply vera for vera wang, and lots of SMART (read: less uptight) designers are recognising we can't all spend $300 on a t-shirt.

    if you can't beat them, join them.

  10. @amywithlemon on designers having their OWN lower-priced lines, because if you can't beat 'em, join 'em....

    AMEN to that sister!

  11. its asian(chinese) owned co. - their culture sees coping as flattery.

  12. its actually korean owned, big difference.