Monday, April 13, 2009

Is Forever 21 the Napster of the Fashion Industry?

Originals and Knockoffs
Bottom Row: Trovata originals. Top Row: Forever 21 knockoffs

Disposable-fashion stores like Forever 21 clearly do not have such a blindingly fast-changing lineups of stuff (they change out the inventory every few weeks) because they have superproductive factories, nor because they've got the world’s best designers churning out hundreds of new patterns a day.

Nope, they pretty openly watch the catwalks during fashion weeks, then turn around $30 versions of the high-end garb they see in merely six weeks or fewer, often before the original design even goes into mass production.

Forever 21, having been sued by over 50 designers in the past few years with little success, has become particularly notorious for ripping off designs. Most recently, Trovata, a clothing line based in Newport Beach, CA, which, if you look at the picture above, obviously got copied by Forever 21, thinks it’s found a way to beat the company in the legal system.

"According to WWD:

After two years of legal wrangling, Trovata’s lawsuit alleging that cheap-chic retailer Forever 21 copied its designs is headed to trial next month, and the outcome could have implications for both vendors and retailers in this age of fast fashion.

Barring a last-minute settlement, lawyers familiar with Forever 21’s extensive litigation history said this would be the first time the rapidly expanding retailer faces a jury that will determine whether it illegally clones other companies’ designs. The result could be a clarification of intellectual property rights in an era when facsimiles of runway looks often appear in multinational specialty chains before a designer’s original version has a chance to hit stores.

The federal court case involves seven garments Forever 21 sold in its stores in 2007, said to look identical, or almost identical, to garments designed by Trovata and publicized on the runway or in magazines.

Unlike other suits brought against Forever 21 in recent years by companies such as Diane von Furstenberg, Anna Sui, BeBe Stores and Anthropologie, the Trovata suit does not allege copyright violations. Under current law, only original prints or graphics on clothes can be copyrighted — as they are considered artwork — and Trovata’s suit focuses on Forever 21’s copying of its unique button placements, decorative stitching, fabric patterns and other details."

I personally think it's funny that a store like BeBe could complain, when it is often guilty of the same crime, but I digress. This lawsuit brings up that age-old discussion of whether the complaints of these major designers come from artistic merit or are merely financial. Do these designers feel slighted that Forever 21 blatantly steals their new and original ideas or that Forever 21 is affecting their profit margins? Is it truly that bad? Speaking from the perspective of someone who has bought the imitation, I can attest that the more you pay, the longer it lasts (usually). I think it will be interesting to see how this lawsuit will play out in Forever 21's future. Will their inventory shrink? Will other designers try to sue under similar claims?

E. Fresh


  1. f21 has always been knock offs of everything...

  2. but the big ppl must realize. we're not gonna buy ur expensive ish. be flattered that foreverXXI is stealing us designs and translating your vision to the masses