Update: In a statement released to Refinery29, Forever 21 said: “The shirt in question was bought from a third party source. As soon as Forever 21 was alerted to the issue, we respectfully removed it from our website. Because this product did not have trademark or IP protections, there were no red flags raised at the time of purchase.” As of Friday, the top was no longer available for purchase on the retailer's site.
Word Agency, on the other hand, hopes Forever 21 learns from this experience: “We want to use this platform we have been given, and the overwhelming support, [to] perhaps create consciousness and demand respect for intellectual property," its cofounder, Zoila Darton, told Refinery29. "For a little integrity from these big brands who are only motivated by profit."
She continued: “We hope that this social backlash will be a lesson to the fast-fashion corporations — hire talented designers with experience and pay them well. There is enough money in this industry for everyone to win. In addition, we would like Forever 21 to donate the proceeds of their shirt to Planned Parenthood. They do, after all, profit from women.”
This story was originally published on September 15, 2017.
Another day, another fast-fashion retailer has been accused of ripping off yet another indie designer. Unfortunately, this time around it’s not just a T-shirt you’ve seen all over Instagram — it's one that benefits charity.
In July, Word Agency, a public relations, marketing, events and social firm based in Los Angeles introduced the Creator shirt, which, according to its website, was the company's “contribution toward the fight for better women’s healthcare in the United States and abroad. Women are creators, givers of life the well being of a woman’s body should be of the utmost importance.” The shirt features the word “woman” in nine different languages, representing Word Agency’s “belief that feminism and human rights should be intersectional.” It retails for $25, and 25% of proceeds goes to Planned Parenthood.
On Friday, Word Agency took to Instagram to share that Forever 21 was selling a shirt clearly inspired by the one they created [at the time of publishing, searches for the tee were redirected to F21's homepage]. The company uploaded side-by-side shots of its shirt and Forever 21’s version, writing, “Hey @forever21, we're not ones to point fingers but this looks mighty familiar. For the record, we created this shirt with a purpose. Too bad they removed the Swahili, Arabic, Hebrew & Japanese ???? #CreatorShirt #Forever21 DONATE ALL THE MONEY TO @plannedparenthood.”
In July, when Forever 21 was accused of ripping off Wildfang’s Wild Feminist tee, CEO and designer Emma Mcilroy shared her frustration with Refinery29. “I would love to know how much everyone in that supply chain was paid, because I can tell you can tell you that I pay well above minimum wage for anyone in my company," she said. "I don’t know how you make a garment like that — ethically and sustainably — for 10 bucks.”
We reached out to Forever 21 and Word Agency for comment and will update this piece if/when we hear back.