When a customer alerted Claudia Dey and Heidi Sopinka, co-founders of Canadian fashion label Horses Atelier, to a dress that she thought was a little too similar to one of their designs, the duo say they felt “nauseated, and then furious.”
“We were stunned by the directness of the copy,” Dey and Sopinka told Refinery29 via email. “Our Hawaiian Smoking Dress means so much to us and to our customers. It is the result of thousands of hours of drafting. It holds such a special place in our design house — and it is our best-selling piece. The last run that we did of the Hawaiian Smoking Dress sold out in a morning.”
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One of our most beloved designs, our Hawaiian Smoking Dress, COPIED by @fuzzibrand and currently carried by @nordstrom. Stop fashion piracy. Please share a picture of your stunning self in your Hawaiian smoking dress with the hashtags #holdyourhorses #notcoolfuzzi #dietprada. Regram this image and riot for intellectual property rights. #horsesatelier #madeintoronto
After finding out about the Fuzzi dress, which was also being sold on MarthaStewart.com and Lyst, the Horses designers took to Instagram. They shared photos of the two designs side-by-side to their 18,000 followers and received over 260 comments of support. Shortly after, Nordstrom, Martha Stewart, and Lyst took the dress off their sites.
Fuzzi denies its design is a copy of the Horses dress. In a statement to Refinery29, Fuzzi confirms that Nordstrom removed the dress online and asked the fashion house to take back the unsold items because the dress didn’t “meet the approval of the public.” Nordstrom declined to comment.
Despite agreeing to pull the piece and removing the dress from its website and social media, Fuzzi says its design is an original. In an email, the company laid out a four-point defense of the dress, stating differences between the two items of clothing including that their dress “has no buttons” and “is shorter and narrower.” They also note that the colours of the floral print in each dress are different and that the Fuzzi dress is 100% polyester while the Horses design is 55% silk, 45% cotton, and 100% cotton lining.
“Horses’ model has nothing original and/or individual,” Fuzzi said in a statement to Refinery29. Fuzzi, which was founded in 1954, said “our clothes are copied and replicated all over the world. We have historical archives that count tens of thousands of garments from which other brands and designers draw inspiration and for this reason we do not need to look for ideas on the market.”
It may be easy to dismiss these cases as just business as usual in fashion, but Dey and Sopinka say that the idea that brands can so blatantly steal from on another without recourse is “soul-destroying.” Horses was founded in 2012 by Dey and Sopinka, best friends and novelists who came up with the idea for the company while they were both suffering from writer’s block. The company is now made up of six employees, all women, and each piece is hand-sewn in Toronto.
“Design, when it matters, is such a deeply private act,” the Horses designers say. “We are a small feminist enterprise, but our size does make the fight difficult, and frankly, uneven. It comes down to money and backed design houses have that might to steal more and get away with it.”
Dey and Sopinka are working with an intellectual property rights lawyer in the U.S. and say they have one goal for the resolution of this situation: “That we are compensated for what was stolen from us.”