Cotton On has deleted a reel, disabled Instagram comments *and* pulled an item from its store after facing backlash following plagiarism accusations. But the small business in question claims they’re still waiting for an apology.
Nakisah Williams set up a brand called Craft Club last year. She launched a rug making kit in June which has since become a bit of a cult product. This week a similar product appeared on Cotton On’s stationery brand, Typo.
Typo’s official Instagram account posted a reel on how to use their new DIY rug kits, which looked pretty similar to a Craft Club rug kit — down to the checked and floral print.
Craft Club fans were quick to point this out in Typo’s comment section, and soon it was filled with users accusing the brand of “copying”. Typo has since deleted the reel, which led to Nakisah publicly accusing the brand of stealing her work.
“As a small business owner who has worked so hard on creating our best selling rug kits, this is such a blow,” Nakisah posted on Craft Club’s Instagram page.
“For a company with as much power and resources as [Cotton On] to… copy a unique product from a small Aussie business is horrible. Especially at a time when retail is struggling and the pandemic has made small businesses so much more vulnerable.
According to Nakisah, Typo “completely ignored over one hundred messages and comments” about the alleged copying.
“The lack of accountability is gut wrenching,” she wrote.
Following heaps of backlash online from fans of Craft Club, Typo pulled the product from its stores.
“In response to claims from Craft Club about a DIY rug-making kit sold by Typo, we acted quickly to acknowledge the concern and work with Craft Club to resolve it,” it said in a statement.
“In this instance, we have identified similarities and we have pulled the item from stores and online globally. We’re working to resolve further with Craft Club directly.”
While Nakisah appreciates the action, she said she hasn’t heard from Typo since last week.
“It’s awesome to see that Typo/Cotton On Group are finally taking action,” Nakisah told PEDESTRIAN.TV.
“However, it’s also taken a really long time to do so. Initially they blocked all comments from our community so it’s taken a while to turn around. They have not actually admitted to the copy or apologised — but rather made statements about listening to the community’s feedback.
“For us, it’s been radio silence since Friday. They have not responded to my initial email replying to them. It seems that now the news has come out, they’re no longer keen to ‘continue the conversation’ as they’ve claimed.”
Craft Club hasn’t actually registered their designs in order to have legal protection, so technically Cotton On is within their rights to emulate them for their own products. The free market, yadda yadda, you know the drill.
Nakisah, however, doesn’t think that makes this situation fair.
“It’s really hard for small businesses and creatives to legally protect their work. Which makes them very vulnerable to big businesses taking advantage of their lack of protection,” she told us.
“For us, every dollar we make goes straight back into making more kits and growing our business. Spending $1500 on a single design copyright in Australia is just not accessible to us.
“Just because it’s their right, doesn’t make it right.”
Nakisah suggested that big brands who want to sell popular cult products can just, you know, collaborate with the original creators rather than copy their work.
“Collaborations and stocking the work of independent businesses is a fantastic way for a large company to create new products in an ethical and positive way,” she said.
“A company like Cotton On might not stock products, but doing a collaboration with a small business/artist is an amazing way to boost both brands and show that they actually do want to make a ‘positive impact’.”
PEDESTRIAN.TV has reached out to Cotton On for comment.