Last week, the Los Angeles-based artist Tuesday Bassen took to social media to accuse the brand Zara of ripping off her designs. Since then, the claim has taken off: an image Bassen created comparing her pins and patches with Zara's, as well as a screenshot of a response from Zara's lawyers, have received widespread attention—and now, they're prompting responses from other independent artists who say Bassen is not alone.
One such artist, the Brooklyn-based author and illustrator Adam J. Kurtz, responded by setting up a website showcasing the original works that Zara has purportedly stolen and directing people where to buy them directly. The site—originally pointed out by Quipsologies—is called Shop Art Theft, and it shows the scope of Zara's allegedly stolen designs based on over 20 independent artists who have come forward:
Bassen's call-to-action came after fans of her work pointed out the similarities between her designs and a series of items found in the Summer ‘16 collections of Zara and its subsidiaries Stradivarius, Pull and Bear, and Bershka. Bassen hired a lawyer, who sent a letter to Zara asserting the rights over the work. The Spanish fast-fashion retailer responded with a letter that disputed the claim, as Co.Create reported, by noting the "the lack of distinctiveness" in Bassen's designs. The letter also implied that because Bassen is not as well-known as Zara, she has less claim to ownership over her own work.
Bassen's platform was big enough to illicit a strong response, however, from both fans of her work and other designers who claim their designs were copied by Zara as well. On the Shop Art Theft website, Kurtz writes:
We were all surprised to find that our creative work was suddenly all over Zara product. Our original art has been reproduced as pin and patch sets, embroidered decals and prints on apparel. Though some of the themes maybe be simple shapes or icons, Zara's replications are near-identical, and the massive scale of this theft from a tight-knit creative scene implies a conscious choice by Zara, Bershka, Pull&Bear, Stradivarius and the parent company Inditex to not bother making significant modifications. None of us have signed art licensing agreements, which are the standard way of compensating an artist to use their work for commercial purposes like these.
Kurtz is also urging visitors to save and share an image that compares the original designs with those sold by Zara.
Last year, Amancio Ortega, who owns Zara parent company Inditex briefly surpassed Bill Gates as the richest man in the world. Zara is also one of the largest retail companies in the world, according to Forbes 2016 Global 2000 ranking. And while Zara certainly isn't the first—or the only—large retailer to steal designs for independent artists, Kurtz and Bassen are banking on the collective efforts of independent designers and their fans to hold these companies accountable.