Forestbound, a small-scale bag and tote company out of Massachusetts, is the latest to feel the sting of a big corporation taking “inspiration” from one of its designs: owner Alice Saunders posted the above note to Instagram and Facebook regarding its $99 ESCAPE utility bag, noting that fans and customers have contacted her asking if the ESCAPE handbag at right is related to her work.
It’s not, of course—though Saunders has an entire collection based on the ESCAPE concept, in a font which she notes was created with her illustrator friend Mason McFee. Anthropologie’s version of an ESCAPE bag is described as an “Escape vegan leather weekender by Nila Anthony” and currently listed on its website at $118. The weekender is not currently listed on Nila Anthony’s website, though a quick perusal of its wares turns up dupes of higher-end, more copied designers like Chanel’s coveted milk carton bag, Fendi’s pom pom bag charm, and a telephone clutch similar to recent designs by Charlotte Olympia (though the telephone bag is not a new design in and of itself; I bought a working phone handbag from the 1980s at a thrift store years ago). The similarity is particularly weird, given that Saunders has worked with the company before: a few years ago, she produced a “limited collection of bags made exclusively for Anthropologie” which were sold at their home and garden store Terrain.
Big, moneyed fashion houses can do something about fast-fashion replicas of their wares—and they are doing it as we speak, as designers from Tom Ford to Burberry are shifting their fashion week structure so that clothes go directly from runway to retail to avoid quick-footed copycats.
But smaller designers just don’t have these sorts of resources—which is why they’re so often allegedly ripped off. Just this week, Sarah Staudinger, a former designer for Reformation, accused the LA company of copying designs from Staud, the namesake line she launched after leaving the company. And Urban Outfitters—which is owned by the same parent company as Anthropologie—has been accused again and again of stealing the work of small designers; so much that in 2014, it removed the skirt from its website and released a statement.
Of course, it goes both ways, and high-end designers “borrow” inspiration from smaller designers and artists sometimes, too, with probably the most famous ongoing allegations involving Jeremy Scott’s graffiti gown lawsuit. Ultimately, it doesn’t simply come down to monetary compensation—the idea that Anthropologie shoppers would, potentially, buy their Escape weekender over Forestbound’s ESCAPE line (though I can’t imagine they would because that orange Anthropologie thing is, objectively speaking, fucking fugly). But it’s the ethical valuation of it all; big-time corporations stomping all over and cheapening the work that boutique artisans dedicate their life to. It just sucks.
Contact the author at email@example.com.