In July, Forever 21 was in hot water for its use of stripes (yes, stripes). Come August, it was accused of knocking-off a popular feminist T-shirt. And just last month, it was called out for yet another controversial tee. Now, some of its jackets are in question.
You could say indie designer Sandy Liang, who's based in New York and currently up for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund prize, has become known for her outerwear. From biker jackets to oversized coats and twists on practical puffers and fleeces, her label has garnered fans like Paloma Elsesser, Leandra Medine, Kate Foley, and really, any of stylish fashion-gal in New York City. But on Tuesday, the designer took to Instagram Stories to call Forever 21 out on a few coats that resemble pieces from her fall/winter 2015 and fall/winter 2016 collections.
"@Forever21 are you proud to rip off young designers?" she wrote. "It's not bad enough that you didn't even bother to change my design even a tiny bit, but you've made me sad about what I do. My team and I work so hard to make these beautiful pieces and you rip them off so shamelessly." To clarify: All of the jackets being referred to on the designer's Stories are actually designed by a brand called Shaci the Label, a third-party vendor sold on Forever 21's site.
"It is extremely disappointing as a young designer to have to deal with other brands blatantly copying my designs. As if trying to start your own brand in this day and age wasn't difficult enough," Liang tells Refinery29 via e-mail. "I dread thinking of this situation happening again in the future, but I know it probably will happen again because people don't care and people are shameless. I don't know what else to say about this except that it is wrong. It is wrong to profit off another designer's idea and it is incredibly gross to me that they think they can get away with it. I honestly had no idea about this until I saw a direct message from one of my followers, but I'm glad to know now! People are telling me that I should be flattered, but I don't feel flattered, I just feel like someone is stealing my intellectual property — which feels pretty bad."
Click ahead to see Sandy Liang's designs along with the alleged copies from Shaci. Let's hope this situation will remind retailers just how damaging copycat products can be.
We reached out to Forever 21 and Shaci for comment, and will update this piece if/when we hear back.