On Thursday, Shea Marie, the designer behind the swimwear line Same Los Angeles, accused fast-fashion retailer Forever 21 of ripping off two of her designs on Instagram Stories. She shared two photos of F21 swimsuits that appeared eerily close to her pieces, writing “Hey @forever21 is this a fucking joke?!?! BLATANT @same copies!!!”
“I don’t have a lot of details yet as it was just brought to my attention by several people who follow me and fans of Same sending it to me,” Marie tells Refinery29. “It’s heartbreaking to see though because we work so hard on these designs, and put so much time and money and energy into the brand.”
For Marie, it’s particularly disheartening because the indie designer produces everything in Los Angeles with a small team of three. As she put it, “to see a huge mass-market company blatantly copy us, of course makes me angry, but also sad. They have all the money in the world to fight against any legal action we would try to bring.”
On Instagram, the designer pointed out the similarities between two of her swimsuits and two that appeared to be on a set for an upcoming campaign for the retailer. The images Marie used were from model Sophia Miacova’s Instagram story, where she modeled the two suits in question. Miacova shared the suits, captioning one, “today with @forever21.”
“Sometimes it makes you feel hopeless. I understand using ideas for inspiration. I personally do it and everyone in the history of fashion has done it,” Marie explains. “But from what I’ve seen so far, this isn’t inspiration, it’s pure plagiarism. This isn’t the first time I’ve been in this situation, but it seems to be the worst copy so far. I try to always look on the bright side, remind myself that imitation is flattery and that I’m onto the next thing. But still it hurts.”
One of the suits Miacova wore was a striped one-piece, which, Marie noted, is from Same Los Angeles' 2017 campaign. The brand shot this campaign a year and a half ago and posted the images on Instagram in May. The same can be said for the Babe Bandeau top ($175) and Everything bottom ($165), which Marie’s label posted on Instagram back in 2015. “Seriously, @forever21 you’re sad,” the designer wrote on Instagram, before calling on her followers to boycott the Forever 21.
“It’s such a bad approach for them because people are tired of seeing large companies take advantage of the underdog. The smart mass market brands are hiring influencers and designers like myself to do design collaborations with them, instead of just blatantly stealing designs. Then they get the best of both worlds and our support.”