A couple of weeks ago I woke up to the news that global clothing brand Zara who we all know – and love? – have been ripping off Ugly Girl Gang leader Tuesday Bassen. I can see a layout of Tuesday’s original work on her Instagram feed, placed alongside Zara’s knock-offs (below). And knock-offs they must certainly be, as there is no reinterpretation to be seen, no difference between any of the designs. There is not even an attempt at re-working her ideas, or even using the genre which Tuesday channels with her work. Besides which, this has encouraged countless other designers to share this news and to speak up about their experiences with Zara plagiarism. And the evidence does appear rather damning. Ain’t no smoke, as they say.
There have been lots of excellent reports online about this whole affair; literally as I’m writing this I can see that both Vogue and The Guardian have published articles on the issue. But this problem raises wider questions too; like how much support do indie brands really have? What does this say about the strength of the global creative community? And what does this outrage indicate about the taste of the general consumer today? ( And – what the heck are the design department at Zara HQ doing all day if they’re just ripping work off Instagram?!).
If social media is good for anything it is giving people a voice. We don’t need to rely on the mainstream media in order to create a dialogue and highlight important issues.
Tuesday Bassen has a huge online following, so when an artist like her can say out loud ‘I’ve been plagiarised’ with something as simple as an Instagram post, people all over the world can hear her. The problem is bigger than Tuesday and Zara of course; many indie brands have been stomped on by global giants.
But Tuesday hasn’t taken it lying down and has had to shell out a pretty penny in order to try to regain protection over her work; but a drop in the ocean to her global giant opponent of course. The momentum of the publicity around this scandal is not only fantastic for any artists who have been directly affected by Zara, but it’s also very interesting.
What if Zara had played this differently? I believe that Zara has underestimated the global creative community and has missed a golden opportunity…
I think it’s a real shame that Zara have acted with such shortsightedness. They saw a viable sub-culture market that was trending on the mainstream level and took what they wanted. Apart from being dishonest, they really missed a significant trick here. Wouldn’t it have been fantastic if Zara had instead announced We are going to be a global pop up stockist for indie brand Tuesday Bassen! I mean – how AMAZING would that have been?! We would have all gone straight to a store specially to see her work in the flesh! It would have flown off the shelves. It would have earned some serious cool points for Zara and attracted lots of other creatives both as customers and collaborators. It would be tapping in to the market of consumers who want something unique, small-run, from an indie brand, but offering the convenience of a big brand store. With fair terms to the artist of course. I would have been writing a blog post about how forward thinking it was of Zara to be supporting cool independent brands and giving them a global platform in this way. But no. T’was not to be. And now they’re in the shit and Tuesday Bassen is shelling out her savings on a lawsuit.
Will this change how other giant brands approach interpreting trends from subculture indie designers? Will social media prevail and create enough of a stink under Zara’s nose for them to re-examine this law suit? I’m crossing my fingers for Tuesday, and offering her my full respect for having so much balls. As she represents herself she is also standing up for all those other makers out there who didn’t have the time nor money to pursue protection over their work.