- Zara suspended sales of select items on Wednesday following allegations that four designs were the original work of L.A.-based independent artist Tuesday Bassen, reported Refinery29.
- Zara parent company Inditex initially rejected the claim that Bassen’s designs were recognizable enough to be owned, but later issued a statement to Refinery29 and Buzzfeed, saying it had “the utmost respect for the individual creativity of all artists and designers."
- Bassen’s claims garnered widespread support on social media this week. Zara says it is investigating the design origins and has contacted Bassen's lawyers.
Bassen is far from the first artist to notice striking similarities between her work and the latest tank on the rack — or to challenge Zara with legal action. But for independent artists, the battle might be better fought in the public courts by using social media to publicly shame retailers for their practices.
While the retailer left some consumers with a bad taste in their mouth — many of Bassen’s followers rallied to her support on Instagram and Twitter — it's hard to see the misstep causing irreparable damage to the Zara brand, considering past incidents have not seemed to have longlasting effects.
Comic book artist and illustrator Marguerite Sauvage tweeted a photo on Wednesday comparing her 2008 original design of a New Year's card and a Zara tank top with the same design, asking followers to share and denounce the company. Another artist who took to Twitter, Adam Kurtz, says he was one of at least 17 artists to have designs ripped off by Zara, according to The Guardian. “People joke that it's how you know you've made it,” he said in an interview with GOOD.
Zara may be the company under fire today, but companies like Urban Outfitters and Forever21 have repeatedly faced allegations of copyright infringement from indie artists over the years, including claims of ripped off designs from skirts to necklaces, according to the Huffington Post.
Zara has been criticized repeatedly for selling copycat designs off the runway from brands such as Celine and Christian Louboutin, which sued Zara (among others) for selling the company’s signature red-soled shoes, according to the Guardian.
Frequent accusations of Forever 21 copying designs have become a running joke, according to Esquire. Kurtz says the likeliness of an independent artist winning a copyright lawsuit against a retail giant is slim, referencing the tale of David and Goliath in an interview with The Guardian. But he hopes that artists can stand up to the company as a group.
“I'm waiting for a magic legal representative to swoop in and represent us as a unit and bear the risk—because Zara knows that none of us individually can afford to,” Kurtz told GOOD.