Urban Outfitters is the latest retailer to be caught up in controversy after accusations that it ripped off designs. The company was slammed by Swedish rapper Yung Lean and his collective, Sad Boys Entertainment, for the sale of a black long-sleeved bomber jacket covered in the group’s symbols and phrases.
The “Urban Renewal Vintage Surplus Yoshi City Nights Black Coach Jacket” is inscribed with the phrase “YOSHI CITY NIGHTS,” which closely aligns with “Yoshi City,” a song that Lean released in 2014. The jacket also features a number of sad faces, mimicking a symbol the collective uses on many of its pieces.
The Sad Boys Entertainment group posted a screenshot of the jacket to its Facebook page with the caption: “the discussion of big corporations feeding off small independent creators and their work is too vast and depressing to conduct here, so let’s settle with this – yoshi city belongs to us and our true fans · f*** u Urban Outfitters · support the official sadboysgear.com + yungleangear.com.”
The jacket ad has since been removed from Urban Outfitter’s site, and the retailer issued an apology to Thump owning up to the mistake. “We were made aware that a jacket belonging to Sad Boys was being sold on our website and immediately pulled the product. We sincerely apologize that the jacket was mistaken for a vintage item and was posted to our site as part of our Urban Renewal Vintage and Remade program, which offers vintage products for our customers.”
The collective also explained to Thump that it doesn’t hold any ill will toward fans who purchased the Urban Outfitters product. “We don’t want to blame the fans buying the bootlegged gear but rather inform them on where to buy the official gear in order to get the true experience on what we try to express in terms of music, art and clothing (and also directly support the artist that they like).”
Urban Outfitters is one of the many fast-fashion retailers that has been called out for copying other designers’ works. Zara is often accused of replicating smaller designers’ works and selling them as its own. Earlier this year, independent Los Angeles-based designer Tuesday Bassen accused the Spanish retailer of replicating her illustrations.
Zara rejected her complaint, stating, “The lack of distinctiveness of your client’s purported designs makes it very hard to see how a significant part of the population anywhere in the world would associate the signs with Tuesday Bassen.”
Many users have since posted comments of support encouraging Bassen to continue to fight for her property rights to the illustrations and questioning the legality of Zara’s claims. “Zara is a big company yes, but stealing an artwork made by an indie artist is a big no no for me,” a user commented. “You don’t know the process behind the artist’s work. She exerted a lot of effort and time to make that then you’re just gonna steal it?”
“Best of luck to you, copying has been zara’s identity from the start, while fashion designers can’t do anything about it due to the laws, artists like you can,” another supporter, San Pham, commented.
Forever 21 was also accused last month of producing a nearly exact copy of a sweatshirt. Emily Oberg, an editorial producer at Complex, noticed that the retailer made a white long-sleeved sweatshirt that closely matched one that her brand, Sporty & Rich, had released months before.
However, many users commented that her complaint was absurd, considering that it was simply a white sweatshirt with black cursive writing on it. “Lol! Stolen design? It is a white sweatshirt with two words and a symbol on it…. Do you not realize how many other white sweatshirts have the same exact thing on them…” Paisley Rae Williams commented.
Despite the fact that users questioned the validity of the accusation, it’s undeniable that Forever 21 has been hit with innumerable claims of replicating designs over the years. Many customers took issue when the retailer released products that some believed were ripping off Kanye West’s Life of Pablo tour merchandise. Zara was also accused of copying Kanye West’s YEEZY Season 2 collection with its “Streetwise” collection.
Fast-fashion retailers are often accused of ripping off smaller designers, and a big factor in that is the speed with which these companies release new styles and trends. Because these brands are in a rush to meet the demand for new styles, retailers sometimes imitate what is trending but fail to add their own unique spin on the pieces.