Another day, another independent artist calling out fast fashion for ripping off work. Let's get right to it: Azerbaijani artist Faig Ahmed, who is known for his melting-rugs motifs, is claiming that Topman is stocking merchandise that rips off one of his pieces. The T-shirt in question seems directly inspired by Ahmed's "Oiling" series from 2012.
The item is by an Australian label called Globe, which Topman stocks. When we reached out for comment, the British fast-fashion retailer was quick to point that out: "Topman is aware that Faig Ahmed has made certain allegations in relation to a T-shirt that was sold by concessionaire, Globe Europe, on the Topman website. Topman had no input in the design, creation, or selection for sale of the T-shirt. Faig Ahmed has not contacted Topman in relation to this matter," a spokesperson from the brand told Refinery29 exclusively. The tee is out of stock, and it's been removed from the European site. Who is responsible then? And what happens next? Ahmed told Hyperallergic, "I’m not surprised [about the shirt], as plagiarism is a very common practice among such big companies. But unfortunately, the international judicial settlement costs a lot of money, and not every artist for this reason can defend their rights. One of the main points in my art is that I’m not doing it for the commercial purposes. I have received various invitations to collaborate with designers and large companies, but I always refuse direct involvement in the production of mass products, since this contradicts the very principle of art." If you look at Globe's website, they also sell other items with rug graphics on them, though none of them seems to be as direct a copy. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but not when credit goes unacknowledged — and unpaid.