Does This T-Shirt Look Familiar?

Photo: Courtesy of Forever21.
Trends are known to trickle down: As soon as our favorite luxury designer items appear on the runway, they inspire fast-fashion, mass-produced versions. Sometimes, this practice doesn't fall under the "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" camp; it can be just slightly too on-the-nose — and there's usually someone quickly calling out the copycat effect on social media. On Tuesday afternoon, GQ writer Jake Woolf took to Twitter to share an image of a T-shirt currently sold on Forever21's website that inspired some serious déjà vu. The item in question — a burnt-orange graphic top by Los Angeles-based brand SDC — certainly resembles a particular style of text-heavy streetwear we've been seeing somewhere... Oh, right.
Last time we checked, Forever21 wasn't on the list of approved stockists for Kanye West's Life of Pablo merch. Given the number of retweets, Likes, and replies to Woolf's tweet, many others recognized the striking similarities between the SDC T-shirt and West's limited-edition capsule. Even though the text on the back of the top F21 is selling is different (it reads "Simon de Cyrene for the World" instead of featuring lyrics to "Ultra Lightbeam"), there are other visual references that recall TLOP. For one, the font resembles that of artist Cali Thornhill DeWitt's lettering used on West's tees. As GQ points out, while West did attract his own fair share of controversy for allegedly copying motifs for the TLOP merch, DeWitt worked closely with the rapper to use the script in question. The overlap doesn't end there, though: The orange-on-orange monochromatic colorway, as well as the timing of the shirt's debut (just months after the Life of Pablo release), has us all thinking of, well, Pablo.
Photo: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images.
To be clear, Forever21 didn't make the T-shirt; it's from an independent brand that the store stocks. Still, it's a prime example of that perpetual trickle-down effect in fashion. Hey, it's great that almost anyone can buy into the zeitgeist of current-season trends nowadays without breaking the bank. But it can be a really slippery slope. Fast-fashion retailers can take cues from design houses (or, in this case, highly sought-after tour merch) far too directly, instead of merely nodding to them. The limited-edition Pablo merch has been quite a hit, so it's unsurprising that others are trying to capitalize on the aesthetic — but, really?

What's also confusing here is that there isn't a significant price difference between the original TLOP shirt and the copycat: On Forever21 and SDC's website, the tee in question retails for $32 and $34, respectively, while the original article sold at West's pop-up for $45, GQ reports. SDC acknowledged that, yes, there is a resemblance between its T-shirts and those sold by West, in a statement issued to Complex. Yet the brand insists that the aesthetic isn't exactly original, and that SDC and West "are both copying the same source... We are both tuned to the same tuning fork." That source is perhaps the symbolism of Simon de Cyrene, a character from the Bible who helped Jesus carry the cross to his crucifixion, as Hypebeast noted, as well as SDC's mission "to make fashion accessible to everyone." We have reached out to Forever21 for comment, and will update our story when we hear back. Look, we appreciate Forever21 for consistently locking it down when it comes to the most on-trend pieces for the lowest possible prices. But, we can't help making all these connections to the TLOP T-shirt, and we're not the only ones. We'd love to hear what you think in the comments below.

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