Forever 21 sued by Feral Childe

Feral Childe is a clothing line owned by Alice Wu and Moriah Carlson. You may remember the wonderful pattern puzzle challenge featuring one of their styles (part one and two). As Alice has been an active and supportive member of our forum, I was more dismayed than usual to hear Forever 21 copied one of their fabric prints. Exactly. Unfortunately, this means Alice and Moriah had to hire attorneys to deal with the unpleasantness -as though they didn’t have enough to do already. Below is a press release from their attorney announcing the lawsuit they’ve filed against Forever21 for copyright infringement.
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DESIGN DUO FIGHTS BACK AGAINST INFRINGEMENT BY FOREVER 21
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 14, 2011
Los Angeles, California – Bi-coastal creative duo Moriah Carlson (Brooklyn, NY) and Alice Wu (Oakland, CA), who design together under the Feral Childe brand, have struck back at the blatant infringement by Forever 21 of one of Feral Childe’s original works of art. The company, through its attorneys at Doniger/Burroughs APC, has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Forever 21 in Federal Court in Los Angeles, alleging that Forever 21 has copied one of Feral Childe’s original hand-created designs, and created and sold apparel bearing this design. Below on the left you will see the original work, and on the right you will see Forever 21’s blatant knock-off:

FC_vs_F21

A review of the above makes clear that Forever 21 has continued in its campaign to steal outright the creative output of some of the brightest minds in the apparel industry, and trample the intellectual property rights of others in an attempt to boost profits. Forever 21’s attempt to profit by misappropriating the work of Feral Childe, however, will not go unpunished.

It is obvious why a company like Forever 21 would want to target Feral Childe as a source from which to steal design work. Since its first wholesale collection in Fall 2006, Feral Childe has created original textile prints for each season and continues to represent the collections with projects incorporating collage, film, performance, photography and music. Both designers come from a fine arts background: Carlson obtained her Master of Fine Arts in painting at New York Studio School, and Wu obtained her Master of Fine Arts in sculpture at Yale School of Art. From its origins as a collaborative art project, Feral Childe has successfully evolved into seasonal wholesale collections while maintaining the artistic spirit which earned them a loyal and international audience.

Feral Childe has toured the world, exhibiting in Denmark, Japan, Canada, Qatar and throughout the United States at venues that have included Fritz Haeg’s Sundown Salon, MAK Center/Schindler House, Andrea Zittel’s HDTS, and the Deitch Projects Art Parade. Its wholesale collection has been sold in over 70 outlets such as Kaight and TG-170 in New York, Candystore Collective and EcoCitizen in San Francisco, and at stores online and around the world.

Feral Childe has been featured in Nylon, Racked, Refinery 29, Daily Candy, EcoSalon, Treehugger, and Ecouterre, among other publications; televised spots include What Not to Wear, Fashion Television and Air Canada. Feral Childe is especially proud of the fact that it does all production in New York’s historic Garment Center. As a company that highly values artistic integrity, Forever 21’s infringement is especially revolting. “Feral Childe has always strived to create the very best in innovative, ethically-produced clothing that is made to last. Our designs are the product of years invested in our deep friendship and artistic training,” say Wu and Carlson. “Forever 21’s copying and mass production of our original textile design without our permission is just plain wrong. It’s frustrating that this enormous company would dare to poach the artistic creations of a small company such as ours, and we are going to make sure it is held accountable.”

This case is currently pending in the Central District of Los Angeles. For media inquiries, please contact Scott Burroughs at DONIGER / BURROUGHS APC, at (310) 590-1820 or scott@donigerlawfirm.com.
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Alice & Moriah:  you know we’re plugging for you and we hope this matter is  resolved quickly and fairly. Go Feral Childe!

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19 comments

  1. Paul says:

    How did they ever find out about the copyright infringement? What could be the monetary damages to make Forever 21 think twice before they did something like this again?

  2. Paul says:

    I was reading an article about Forever 21 on Wikipedia and it appears that stealing others work is common for this company. It also appears that most cases are settled out of court. Maybe it is time to settle a case by trial judge or jury and make it very public. Even though Forever 21 makes it appear they do their manufacturing in LA they actually make the majority of the clothing in China. Forever 21 has stores and sales all over the world so the monetary damages could be huge and should be. Revenue in 2008 was US$1.7 Billion. Forever 21 has stores and retails in 20 countries.

  3. Jen in NY says:

    It’s rare to see what appears to be such a blatant copy. Despite even Forever 21’s reputation, one has to wonder what they were thinking.

  4. kris combs says:

    first time I have seen chicken scratch copyrighted, may have to go back to the hen to see if permission was granted for use in the first place

  5. Andrea says:

    kris combs: whether you like this pattern or not, it is scratch for scratch duplicated. This is not a homage or “inspired by” situation — this is flat out thievery — from a company with a chronic history of doing this to a variety of designers. Wait till it happens to you — and see how you feel when ironic, dismissive comments excusing the thief are made about your intellectual property.

  6. Frances in NYC says:

    Wow, that’s so horrifically blatant, and idiotic. What could F21 have been thinking?

    In a way, this is like an early Christmas present — here’s hoping that Feral Childe get a ton of money out of it!

  7. Kathleen says:

    Kris: I’m guessing you are one of those mean girls. You know, kick people when they’re down because they make a better target and you’re less likely to miss. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    I’m out of town and can only post here via iPhone and I can’t delete your comment but I can’t let such nasty and hatefulness rest unchallenged.

    Nobody asked for your design opinion. Obviously somebody thought it was good enough to copy.

    I planned to delete this but now I think I will leave it so people will know what kind of person you are. Alice is known for her generous advice and support to others, and acting like a catty amateur teenage wannabe designer rock star is what you’ll be known for.

  8. Feral Childe says:

    Kris, you are funny, although we honestly can’t tell whether you are being jokey, snarky or both. While the copyright infringement is a very serious matter to us, Kris’ comment does underscore what a bizarre choice the design department made in choosing to copy this PARTICULAR print:

    The Feral Childe Teepees print idea was developed over several months, starting from sketchbook drawings and then refined and edited in countless email exchanges between us until we perfected the image. This type of markmaking reflects the very particular philosophy of drawing taught at the New York Studio School, where both of us studied. So both of us are intimately familiar with this visual language. With that art training as a basis, we have made the image very personal and particular to Feral Childe. There are hidden pictures of teepees and crowns and pennants in the drawing that aren’t necessarily apparent at first glance. How could anyone else come up with that combination?

    Whoever at Forever 21 discovered our print and decided to co-opt it wasn’t looking closely and probably just assumed this was just an abstract “scratch print” and didn’t notice our hidden pictures. Our Teepees print screams Feral Childe, if not by name, then by our eccentricities. Feral Childe’s prints are the soul of our collections. Meanwhile, Forever 21′s “designer” was too lazy to come up with an original print idea.

    You can read more about the case on Ecosalon.com:
    http://ecosalon.com/fast-fashion-giant-forever-21-steals-sustainable-label-feral-childes-design/

    Thanks all for your support. ~ Feral Childe

  9. Unfortunately, Forever 21 and other companies that steal original designs, count on their being able to sell a whole lot of this before anyone catches on and takes them to court. I’m glad you are pursing this aggressively.

  10. Seth Meyerink-Griffin says:

    @Feral Childe: If you are financially able to, please keep the entire process public. I know (very, very well!) that legal battles can get quite expensive, and that the pressure to settle out of court can be high, but I would hope that you can keep this all visible so that the blatant theft can be visible to everyone.

  11. Laura says:

    That print is very interesting. I noticed the pennant shapes in it when I first glanced at it. After seeing FC’s description of some of the design process, I took a second look and it is a deceptively simple-looking design, hardly “chicken-scratch.” I’ve never been to Forever 21 but now I may go in to see if the print in question is on the racks. I’m hoping you win this, FC.

  12. Wednesday says:

    @Feral Childe: I am as deeply impressed by your generous, thoughtful and serious response to Kris’s ugly comment as I am to your forthright stand against F21. You are a class act all the way around. We’re rooting for you!

  13. I’m back in town so I looked up Kris. Apparently Kris is a he from Bakersfield California and he enjoys trolling judging from his comments over on HuffPo.

    He owns a company called Three Diamonds Printing at 905 20th Street, Bakersfield CA 93301, (661) 321-3158 -which has some kind of connection to the apparel industry. I wonder if he does print jobs for Forever21? Maybe even fabric printing? Anyway, people can read what Kris wrote to decide whether or not they want to do business with him.

  14. Kathleen says:

    Sock Puppet.

    Kristen: it really doesn’t matter what we do or don’t understand; only the court’s interpretation of the situation.

    Having to post comments all over the web in an attempt to repair your employer’s image must be exhausting. And considering their many transgressions, a lot of overtime. Let’s hope you’re better compensated than their contractors.

  15. First, This is an obvious rip off, even in an industry where many can legally claim to be “inspired” by others’ ideas.

    Second, while I can’t claim any special expertise here, it seems to me that Target has a much more interesting, marketable and ethical strategy of inviting designers to create special lines for their market. For instance, I’ve seen ads for “Calypso St. Barth for Target”, another successful “catch” for Target, along with Michael Kors, et al.

    Whereas Forever 21 might have chosen to rip off a Calypso design (hypothetically, based on their track record), Target takes the high road, and at a similar price point.

    The comparison makes F21’s actions indefensible, except by apology and a change in business practices.

    P.S. Incidentally, it has come to light that there are entire FAKE Apple stores in China. The employees even thought they were working for Apple.

  16. Jay Arbetman says:

    I’m a big fan of Feral Childe.

    You just do not want traffic with people who do this sort of thing. Forever 21 might as well mugged Alice and Moriah……in fact, that is exactly what they did.

    I’m going to also cut Kris a little slack. Hope you read this Kris.

    Being an independent designer that really gets out there and makes there product happen is extraordinarily difficult. The amount of time, talent, money and emotional trauma is enormous. Alice and Moriah actually operate on a pretty high level and are respected by many in our community here at F-I and by the industry in general.

    In fact, the fact that they got “knocked off” gives you an idea as to the kind of quality and prestige that Feral Childe has brought to the market place.

    Check out their website and see if some of their product is in your local boutiques. If you have any idea that some day you might want to produce commercially, then their product is not just worth viewing. It is worth studying.

  17. Susan Hardwick says:

    I can guess what Forever 21 was thinking…it is cheaper to ask for forgiveness that it is to ask for permission…they look at weighing the costs of a law suit, what it will cost to go to trial.

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