Fast fashion retailer Forever 21 regularly faces copyright accusations. One Dallas-based designer wants to do something about that, because he is one of the many creatives who believes he has been ripped off by the retailer.
Charles Smith II, the creative director of high-end label Smith II and S2 by Smith II, first noticed that a bralette designed by Forever 21 looked strikingly similar to one of his Do Not Touch designs after model Rose Acosta posted a video of herself wearing the garment on Instagram.
The $3.99 Forever 21 seamless bralette featured the phrase “Do Not Touch,” which is the name of one of Smith’s collections. Smith’s Do Not Touch concept was inspired by three things — police injustice, the personal space and boundaries of a woman, and the phrase as it relates to art in a museum.
Smith tells Yahoo Style that friends and colleagues began sending him direct messages about the Forever 21 bralette, mistaking it for his own design.
Fed up with the retailer ripping off independent designers, Smith posted a photo comparing his products featuring the phrase with Forever 21’s bralette. He also included a lengthy note slamming the retailer in the post.
“I was going to keep silent about this and handle it legally but f*** that, @forever21 is a giant corporation that gets over on creating cheaply made designs made out of cheap ass fabric that in a spin cycle of one wash is over before you even dry it,” he wrote in the caption.
Smith also detailed the amount of research he did before conceptualizing the Do Not Touch design he believes Forever 21 ripped off. He explained to Yahoo Style that he checked out all of major fast fashion retailers before the collection was launched in January of 2016 to ensure his design was authentic.
“As a designer I research every detail of design or concept that I plan to squeeze throughout the collections I create in variations, @donottouchs2 was a simple idea that went untapped in both commercial & high fashion and I can honestly say and you can Google ‘Do Not Touch Fashions’ and my s*** pops up first,” he wrote in his Instagram post.
Smith added that there’s a meaningful reason behind his the Do Not Touch collection, which also compelled him to speak out against the retailer.
“Do Not Touch has helped create scholarship funds for kids in a public school system that was built for them to fail, and I created and came up with this collection not only to express but to create positive change through the platform I have in the little way that I can,” he wrote. “When giant companies such as @forever21 blatantly steal your ideas and not ask nor compensate you — and let alone steal an idea that also belongs to the youth of our public schools — you’re not only taking money out of my [family’s] mouth, but you are also taking dreams away from these kids and your taking money out of [their] pocket, which goes to helping [their] transition into the next great phase of [their] lives.”
Proceeds from items in his Do Not Touch collection — including hats and shirts, as well as a percentage of ticket sale profits from his runway shows — directly fund the scholarships for high school graduates moving on to creative art institutions within the Dallas Independent School District. The brand has already raised $9,000 for the scholarships.
Smith says knocking off other designers work has been an issue with Forever 21 for a number of years. “You can’t keep stealing ideas from emerging designers and creatives and get away with it,” he tells Yahoo Style. “They’re deliberately doing it.”
Even though Forever 21 has removed the product from its website, Smith shared that he cares more about the noise he is making about the issue than a potential payoff from the retailer.
“Any other designer is being paid off with a settlement or a gag order, but they can’t say anything after they pay them off,” he says. “Designers don’t really speak out in a sense to fight for this. Even if they gave me a settlement, I’m not even going to take that. It’s not even about the money.”
Smith is urging other designers and creatives to band with him against Forever 21. “This isn’t the first time they’ve done this,” he tells Yahoo Style. “They do it all the time, but somebody has got to be the one that stands up for all of us.” The designer added the hashtag #boycottforever21 to a followup post on the matter.
The designer does plan to take legal action. We have reached out to Forever 21 about the matter and will update you when we hear back.
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