Yesterday, Brooklyn Magazine published a profile of Millioneiress, a three-year-old fashion brand run by a 24-year-old Leah Kirsch. Kirsch says the brand was “created to empower women to be unapologetically themselves, to recognize her uniqueness and embrace her flaws just as much as her assets,” and that it’s all about “New Age feminism.” She’s also been profiled by Racked and her work was included on Huffington Post’s feminist gift guide.
However, Brooklyn Magazine has pulled the piece after numerous allegations that Leah stole her designs.
We take the allegations brought to light seriously, and have taken this profile down while conducting further investigation.
— Brooklyn Magazine (@brooklynmag) December 12, 2016
Millioneiress’ designs at first were derided for being derivative. They frequently feature rap lyrics and slang originated by black culture and evoke the art of Barbara Kruger (clothing brand Supreme has also been accused of ripping off Kruger). However, others allege that her designs were ripoffs of other independent artists.
— Joe Biden is a handsy creep (@justkelly_ok) December 11, 2016
— 🇯🇲 ▲ (@S_C_Jr) December 11, 2016
she had ripped off dozens of artists and profited hugely from them despite being born rich. shes an exploitative asshole
— depressive person (NorWesCon April 9th SEA) (@3liza) December 12, 2016
The Daily Dot has reached out to designer Foie, who is accusing Millioneiress of stealing her designs, as well as Millioneiress, and will update if they respond. But Millioneiress did respond to the controversy on Twitter, writing, “Thanks for all the free press.” The Millioneiress Twitter account also retweeted some of the criticism.
Foie also wrote about her interaction with Millioneiress on Medium in February. After posting her design on Tumblr, she writes, “The company Millionaires [sic] took my design and put it on a shirt that they were selling. My friend 3liza and I brought their theft to the attention of our followers and they eventually took it down.” She said she received an apology email from the company (presumably from Kirsch), saying, “I’m a newly graduated college student and was not aware of the implications of using the design.”
This summer, artist Tuesday Bassen discovered nearly identical replicas of her pins being sold by Zara, and Urban Outfitters has been accused of ripping off independent artists as well. Some artists even created a store where you can buy the originals of their work instead of the copies made by bigger companies.
With many independent artists using sites like Instagram, Society6, and Etsy to make names for themselves, it’s easier than ever for someone else to lift their work. The assumptions is if an image is published the internet, it can be used for free, without regard for the creator or copyright, and many artists have discovered their work being printed by third parties on sites like CafePress or Zazzle without being contacted.
However, the excuse that companies or designers just “didn’t know” not to use someone else’s work is a pretty weak one. Even if you’re not a copyright expert, it’s pretty intuitive that if you didn’t design something, you shouldn’t be profiting off of it. If you’re an artist worried about this happening to you, here are some tips on how to protect yourself and your work.