Victoria's Secret and their parent company, Limited Brands, Inc., are being slapped with a $15 million lawsuit by Zephyrs, a hosiery supplier they used to work with. According to PR Newswire, Zephyrs claims the lingerie giant has continued to use photos of their products on Victoria's Secret packaging and in-store displays even though they've severed ties with the brand. In addition to false advertising, Zephyrs feels Victoria's Secret have been tricking their customers by selling cheaper, Canadian-made knockoff stockings with images of the more expensive, Italian-made Zephyrs products.
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The complaint was filed August 10 and revealed to the public today in federal court in Columbus, Ohio, home of Victoria's Secret headquarters. Zephyrs claims Victoria's Secret contacted them directly about copying their hosiery designs in hopes of raising profits and decreasing debt. The lawsuit is claiming unfair competition, false advertising, and consumer fraud in violation of a 2001 agreement. Zephyrs is now seeking damages for breach of contract, corrective advertising, and is asking for a recall of all three styles of hosiery: Lace Top Fish Net Stockings, Fish Net Thigh-Highs With Backseam, and Signature Stripe Thigh-High With Bows. The tights are a popular item for the lingerie retailer and may have been sold in over 1,000 stores and on VictoriasSecret.com. The items in question have all been removed from the website.
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Women's Wear Daily spoke with Zephyrs's lawyer Joseph Gioconda of Gioconda Law Group PLLC who elaborated on the case. "Victoria's Secret changed the product in the packaging but didn't change anything else except Made in Canada on the back of the package," said Gioconda. "It used to say Made in Italy. [It sold] at least $120 million worth of Zephyrs-designed product throughout all 50 states, through the Victoria's Secret chain of retail stores, the Victoria's Secret print catalogue and the popular Victoria's Secret Web site. We are planning to proceed and will be serving papers to Victoria's Secret and The Limited as well as other Victoria's Secret entities. They will have 21 days to respond."
Zephyrs have submitted photo evidence of their own thigh-high hosiery pictured alongside those sold at Victoria's Secret. Images suggest that the Zephyrs stockings are more elaborate and better quality with preferred elements like scalloped picot edges, thicker bands of lace, stronger design motifs, enhanced stitching, and full slipper feet on fishnets. The current Victoria's Secret tights feature irregular borders, less durable construction, cheaper lace trim, and are lacking any type of heel reinforcements.
While we're just going off the court documents, it does seem Victoria's Secret is in the wrong if they maintained the images and product info of the Zephyrs tights on their packaging after their contract was terminated. Whether their new products are inferior or not, this seems like false advertising. We'll keep you posted as the case unfolds.
We reached out to Victoria's Secret for comment, but they have not returned our request at press time.
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