Plagiarism is a mighty damning accusation. And in the world of fashion, a notoriously hard one to pin down. The very issue discussed by Johanna Blakley, Deputy Director of Californian think tank the Norman Lear Center, who, in a speech conducted at TEDxUSC earlier this year, illuminated the fashion industry’s relative flippancy (compared to their creative industry kin in music and film) toward intellectual property, creative commons and the distinction between remixing and flat-out copying (watch below).
That’s not to say that fashion’s flimsy copyright laws has in any way curtailed media scrutiny (see Fasionista’s eagle-eyed knock-off column Adventures in Copyright or the threat of legal action against the forever offending brands (Forever 21, Steve Madden, et al.) but unlike a stolen riff or lifted paragraph, the fingerprints of fashion plagiarism are far more difficult to find. To my knowledge there’s no such thing as a Sartorial CSI Death Squad.
Cut to this afternoon when I received an email titled “The most sincere form of flattery?” from Australian swimwear brand White Sands Swimwear. Its contents? Eight side-by-side images of White Sands’ own wares and those contained within Seafolly’s September look book. Every Seafolly garment was at-first-glance similar to their White Sands kin. The images were proceeded with the caveat “Is it just us, or has Seafolly taken a little to much ‘inspiration’ from White Sands?”.
Now no one likes a self-serving tattle tale but there are some similar-ish details, cuts and fabrics in both ranges and because I’m not a swimwear expert I’m going to throw it over to you to decide. Some things to keep in mind: How many ways can you cut a swimsuit? I mean, it’s not like we’re talking about plagiarized haute couture. Also, who incurs more bad will? Seafolly who may or may not have plagiarized White Sands’ designs? Or White Sands, whose meant-to-be incendiary email just might be the worst way to succeed in Australian fashion’s tiny talent pool. Swimwear politics, who knew?
[Updated 7.17pm 2nd September] Seafolly has released a statement in regards to the allegations made against them by White Sands. It states that designs included in the images below were released into the marketplace before the relevant White Sands products. It further adds that other designs included in the allegations were “substantially progressed in development” prior to White Sands releasing its relevant garments. The full release is published under the images at the centre of the controversy below.
The full statement from Seafolly can be found below:
Seafolly vows to take legal action over claims of copying made by White Sands Swimwear
Seafolly is one of Australia’s best known fashionable swimwear brands. Its swimwear styles are sold throughout Australia and in many countries throughout the world. Seafolly is known for its innovative and stylish swimwear styles. Seafolly has its own dedicated graphic design team that are responsible for designing new and original fabric prints and designs for Seafolly’s swimwear range. These original and distinctive fabric and garment designs are very important to Seafolly maintaining its reputation as one of Australia’s leading swimwear brands.
Earlier today Seafolly became aware that Leah Madden of White Sands Swimwear has made allegations on her facebook page that Seafolly has copied 7 of her swimwear designs. Ms Madden has posted on her facebook page reproductions of photographs from Seafolly’s catalogue showing the Seafolly garments which she claims are copies of swimwear garments designed by White Sands Swimwear. Seafolly has also become aware that Ms Madden has sent emails to media outlets attaching Seafolly’s photographs together with photographs of the White Sands Swimwear garments making these allegations of copying.
Seafolly denies these claims and says that they are completely false and without foundation and says the claims have been made maliciously to injure Seafolly. Seafolly will be taking immediate action to cause Ms Madden to withdraw these allegations. Seafolly notes that many of the designs which Ms Madden claims Seafolly has copied were released into the marketplace by Seafolly before White Sands Swimwear released its relevant swimwear garment. Seafolly also says that the other designs which Seafolly is alleged to have copied were substantially progressed in development prior to White Sands Swimwear releasing it relevant swimwear garments into the marketplace.
Seafolly has demanded that Ms Madden remove the photographs of the Seafolly garments from her facebook page and withdraw the allegations. Unless the allegations are withdrawn and a full and complete apology are made Seafolly has advised that it will issue proceedings against Ms Madden on the basis that the statements which she has made are false and misleading and made with the malicious intent in order to damage Seafolly’s business.
Anthony Halas, Chief Executive Officer of Seafolly, said “Seafolly is shocked by the claims made by Leah Madden on her website. Seafolly is a well known international swimwear company that prides itself on its original swimwear designs. Seafolly employs a large design team to create its original and innovative swimwear and it would never copy a swimwear design of any competitor in the marketplace. Seafolly takes vigorous action against people who copy its designs and it has issued numerous infringement actions against copyists in Australia and internationally. Seafolly is committed to taking action against Ms Madden to set the record straight and to ensure that Seafolly’s reputation as an innovative designer is maintained”.
Tony Watson, a Partner of Middletons who has acted for Seafolly in many of its infringement cases which it has brought against traders who have copied Seafolly’s designs, said that “Seafolly takes the copying of its original fabric designs and garments seriously and it currently has proceedings on foot in France and Canada against copyists. Through bringing these proceedings Seafolly has shown that it stands by its original and innovative designs. Mr Watson also said that “Seafolly will issue court proceedings if it has to in order to clear its name of these allegations of copying.”