Givenchy has been accused of copying the design of their leather hats from a New York designer.
The French luxury label’s creative director, Matthew M Williams, posted a selfie with a black bucket hat on his Instagram earlier this week, prompting the HardWear Style designer K Tyson Perez to write in the comments section: “Well doesn’t this look familiar…”
Perez alleges that the design of the leather hat is very similar to one of his from 2013. In a lengthy Instagram post, next to photos of his design and Givenchy’s the designer wrote: “This type of appropriation and creative colonization done by a major European brand to small black designers/brands is nothing new, but this shit needs to end.”
He added: “I don’t care if [Williams] gets a pass from the culture because of his association with Kanye [West], Playboi Carti and Kid Cudi – the mere fact he is using a design that I’ve developed, perfected and promoted since 2013 is an example of the systemic oppression black and brown creatives have been dealing with in the fashion industry since forever.”
Speaking to the Guardian, Perez said: “I think white designers, artists, writers, entertainers or any form of creativity appropriating from black culture during any period without recognition is wrong and downright disgusting. Unfortunately, it is no longer shocking.
“It wasn’t correct nor shocking in 1920 and while not shocking in 2020, it can no longer be accepted with everything happening around social justice, police brutality and racial equality,” he said.
This year fashion labels, shops and executives have been roundly criticised for their failure to diversify the industry. In June Anna Wintour, the US Vogue editor, was called out for her apology for the lack of black creatives at her magazine, with critics calling it empty. Fashion and beauty brands were also accused of performative responses to the George Floyd police murders and hypocrisy in light of shop floor racism.
“The fashion industry is absolutely systemically racist and oftentimes proud of it,” said Perez, who has worked in the industry for 15 years. “The real fight is moving the fashion industry beyond their comfortability of tokenism.”
High-profile examples of major fashion brands accused of copying the designs of smaller labels have included Chanel, which was accused of copying the Scottish designer Mati Ventrillon and then offering to credit her; Gucci, which was accused of copying Dapper Dan before collaborating with him; and Louis Vuitton, which was accused of culturally appropriating the plaid of the Maasai tribe.
“Black designers are often told that we should ‘take it as a compliment’ or somehow, ‘be honored’ when our designs created from our blood, sweat and tears are stolen from underneath us by the likes of Europeans powerhouses,” said Perez.
But accusations of fashion design plagiarism are often difficult to verify.
“The border between copying and ‘homage’ is difficult to draw,” said Professor Eleonora Rosati from Fashion Law London. “Not each and every copying is a violation of legal rights: what is copied needs to be protected for there to be an infringement,” she said.
“This leads me to the second reason, which is related to proving the infringement: unless one has a registered right, in order to sue someone successfully over alleged copying of a design, it’s necessary to prove access to one’s own design and copying thereof. Did they copy you or did they copy someone else?”
The Guardian has contacted Givenchy for comment.