Young designers see red as Gucci ‘rips off’ ideas

As one of the premium fashion houses, Gucci fiercely guards its designs against copycats. Some younger designers believe that the £10 billion brand should turn that ferocity on itself after four accusations of plagiarism this year.

Gucci has withdrawn two designs after complaints that it had used the work of artists without crediting them.

Alessandro Michele, who has transformed Gucci’s fortunes since his promotion to creative director in 2015, wore a T-shirt with a snake motif during the launch of his Cruise 2018 collection. That shirt is no longer available after the company was accused of plagiarism by Stuart Smythe, a graphic designer from New Zealand who made a strikingly similar snake in 2014.

The Gucci version, which was surrounded by the message “Guccify yourself”, featured two snakes rather than one and has minor differences, but Gucci conceded that it had been inspired by Smythe’s work and said that it had unsuccessfully sought to contact him in advance.

A second withdrawn design featured a panther roaring on a mountaintop, which was allegedly copied from a tiger motif created by Milan Chagoury of Australia. He had produced the design for the White Tiger Tattoo Co in 2014 and claimed that Michele had taken his work without credit to use on tote bags and shirts alongside the word “Guccification”.

A Gucci spokesman said that the logos were used as part of a “creative exchange” between high fashion and street style. He noted that tiger symbols were commonplace.

“In these two cases, when a similarity with the graphics of the two graphic artists became known, an effort was made to engage with those artists,” the spokesman said. “In the end the respective graphics were removed.” For other designs Gucci successfully contacted artists whose work it wanted to adapt.

Michele, 45, denied another accusation made in February that Gucci had copied work by Pierre-Louis Auvray, a student at Central Saint Martins in London. Auvray claimed that Gucci’s use of catwalk models with alien heads was inspired by images that he had posted on Instagram. “I am just a student working hard on building my own stuff and the last thing we need as young creatives is to be ripped off,” he wrote on the social networking site.

Michele said that he was unaware of Auvray’s work and that it was a coincidence. “It’s about my memories, so movies from the Seventies, including Star Trek, Lost in Space, that I saw many times,” he told the Business of Fashion website.

The fashion house sees no similarity between its exchange of ideas and what it describes as exploitation of its work by mainstream clothing manufacturers. It is suing Forever 21 for allegedly using its signature stripes and designs for a shiny bomber jacket, which it sold for £2,600 compared with Forever 21’s £30 version.

FASHION FAUX PAS

  • Giorgio Armani accused his rivals at Dolce & Gabbana of copying the design of a pair of his trousers. “I would understand if they were nobodies, but honestly!” he said in 2009. D&G responded: “Surely we still have much to learn, but definitely not from him.”
  • Chanel apologised to a maker of Fair Isle jumpers in 2015 after it admitted to copying designs by Mati Ventrillon, a designer in the Shetlands. The French fashion house ensured the jumpers were labelled “Mati Ventrillon design”.
  • Patchwork jumpers by Vika Gazinskaya, a Russian-born designer whose devotees include Katy Perry, drew comparisons with art by Brad Troemel, from New York, in July. She has not denied the similarities.
  • Khloé Kardashian’s Good American fashion brand denied accusations that it had copied designs by Destiney Bleu, a designer based in Los Angeles. Her lawyers have accused the reality television star of “malicious and tortious conduct”.

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