It has almost become routine for giant brands to lift the designs of smaller and upcoming brands. The most prolific offenders are fast-fashion companies whose operating models are hinged on copying the latest trends and bringing them to market quickly. From Gucci and Adidas suing Forever21 to Christian Louboutin VS Dutch retailer Van Haren, it feels like there’s a new outcry every other day.
The latest brand under fire is UK-based fast-fashion online retailer Boohoo. The brand’s latest drop contains several pieces that bear an uncanny resemblance to KAI Collective‘s Gaia print from its SS20 collection.
KAI collective is a fast-rising brand that has been featured in numerous publications and has become a favourite among fashion girls all around the world and worn by the likes of Saweetie, Patricia Bright, Adwoa Aboah, and let’s not forget the brand was also included on the Beyoncé.com directory of Black-owned businesses last year.
Nigerian influencer Fisayo Longe who is the brand’s founder and creative director took to her Instagram to address the issue:
KAI has sent Boohoo a Cease & Desist Letter requiring that they stop selling products that unlawfully infringe our copyright. We have also demanded £30,000 in damages plus legal costs. They have until 22nd February to comply. In July 2019, after nearly three years, I decided to design very unique prints to differentiate Kai and build a stronger brand identity. I collaborated with @grapespatternbank and that was how the print, now known as Gaia, came to life.
@boohoo has since launched its own Gaia rip-off. Led by Mahmud Kamani, a billionaire, the Boohoo group owns Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing and others. As many have complained, they often appropriate designs from small independent brands.
For KAI, Gaia is not just colours, lines and patterns. It is soul and identity. We design for women to feel their most confident. Before we launched the orange colourway in June 2020, I was uncertain about how it would be received. I had never seen a print like it. Obviously, I had no reason to worry and Gaia is now being heavily imitated.
Boohoo has gone as far as to copy our print almost identically. That is unacceptable. Seeing how much Gaia was being imitated, I obtained design registration in the UK and EU, with US copyright pending. They will not profit illegally off, of our intellectual property and most certainly not with a print that we have legally protected.
Business practices that line the pockets of a billionaire businessman and his sons off, of the ideas, struggles, sacrifice and pure hard work of young black female designers are racist and sexist. You are exploiting and economically disempowering us.
We have already spent thousands in legal costs at this stage and it is easy to see why small brands don’t bother defending themselves – it’s unaffordable! However, after years of graft and sweat, we refuse to be stolen from in this way, and we take reputational damage very seriously.
I advise Boohoo to do the right thing and stop selling their copies of our print and pay us.
I will keep you updated; please help spread this far and wide.
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So BellaStylistas, what do you think? Creative Inspiration or Pure Coincidence?
Photo Credit: @fisayolonge