Did Forever 21 Copy Yet Another Indie Designer?

Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images.
The recent streak of fast-fashion behemoths shamelessly cribbing the work of indie designers and artists shows no signs of waning, unfortunately. The latest copycat scuffle involves Forever 21 and indie brand Bow & Drape. The item in question? A gray sweatshirt at Forever 21 that reads "Hangry," surrounded by illustrations of various foods, that's quite similar to one of Bow & Drape's designs.

Aubrie Pagano, one of the NYC-based label's founders, spotted the lookalike sweatshirt as she was leaving work earlier this week. "A sparkly jacket in the Forever 21 below our SoHo office caught my eye; when I walked into the store to take a closer look at it, I immediately saw a folded pile of 'Hangry' sweatshirts," Pagano told Refinery29. "I did a double take because they took everything, from the phrase to the random assortment of bananas, doughnuts, tacos, and pizza." Even the heart-shaped pepperoni slices on the pizza on Bow & Drape's version appear on Forever 21's version. The O.G. version was launched in fall 2016 and retails for $59 (whereas Forever 21's take on the top is $15.90). Bow & Drape does not, unfortunately, have this particular design copyrighted.

Pagano posted on her personal Instagram account about the striking similarities, noting, in jest, how it's a pretty ironic sign of success to have a big retailer pulling considerable "inspiration" from an indie label's designs. Everlane's Michael Preysman chimed in, commenting, "Lame AF," while some Bow & Drape fans vowed to stop shopping at the fast-fashion chain in solidarity with the label (and one even offered to chip in for the legal fees).

Part of me is outraged, but part of me is like "I think this means we've made it." @forever21 @bowanddrape

A photo posted by Aubrie Pagano (@aubriepagano) on


Joking aside, allegedly being ripped off by such a large retailer, no less than one with aggressively low, impossible-to-compete-with pricing, feels pretty shitty. "I feel powerless to address it; fast-fashion brands so rampantly [copy], especially from smaller labels that are without large copyright protection," Pagano said. "It seems there is little I can do; I hope I am wrong in this, but I am doubtful." The brand's lawyers have suggested writing a cease and desist, "which, if nothing else, will prevent future action," Pagano explained. It isn't the first copycat scenario the brand has experienced, but it's the most blatant one. "Friends have sent me other brands lifting our pun-y phrases and wordplay before, but this was the most egregious," she said.

Last month, Forever 21 was selling another sweatshirt that looked strikingly similar to a different indie label's creation. The retailer carried a hoodie featuring the phrase "Smart & Pretty," which looks a whole lot like Sporty & Rich's hoodies, which are embroidered with the brand's name. Zara has also been called out for similar offenses: Artist Tuesday Bassen criticized the fast-fashion staple for cribbing her pins and illustrations in July, which led her to start Shop Art Theft, a website and Instagram account, with artist Adam J. Kurtz, who's also allegedly been copied by the retailer. In late August, Brother Vellies' designer, Aurora James, criticized the Spanish chain for ripping off her Dhara sandal.

We've reached out to Forever 21 for comment on the lookalike "Hangry" sweatshirt. We're hoping these copycat scenarios become more of an anomaly...and eventually a thing of the past altogether.


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