Angry Artists Accuse Zara of Stealing Their Designs

A dozen artists have banded together.

Adam J. Kurtz's graphic highlights several designers' work and, inset, Zara's products. Courtesy Adam J. Kurtz.

Clothing retailer Zara, which has gotten in trouble for selling a handbag with a swastika in its design and for peddling a pajama top that resembled a concentration camp uniform, is in hot water again. A group of artists say the giant retailer has copied their designs in the clothing it sells in its 2,100 stores worldwide.

Los Angeles designer Tuesday Bassen first noticed that some designs on Zara’s clothes and accessories were remarkably similar to hers late last month. When she tweeted some side-by-side comparisons, the case caught fire. Her friend Adam J. Kurtz, a designer living in New York, quickly found examples of his designs among Zara’s products as well.

“About 12 people contacted me very quickly with their own examples,” Kurtz told artnet News by phone this morning. A graphic he produced shows work by designers including Big Bud Press, Coucou Suzette, and Maria Ines Gul, among others, along with what they call infringing Zara designs.

The artists are preparing a group legal complaint.

Bassen has already taken action, having hired a lawyer to send a cease-and-desist letter to Zara. The retailer shot back, saying, “The lack of distinctiveness of your client’s purported designs makes it very hard to see how a significant part of the population anywhere in the world would associate the signs with Tuesday Bassen.”

Inditex, Zara’s parent company, followed up, saying the items had been suspended from sale.

Illustrator Tuesday Bassen with one of her designs she accuses Zara of copying. Courtesy of Tuesday Bassen.

Illustrator Tuesday Bassen with one of her designs she accuses Zara of copying. Courtesy of Tuesday Bassen.

“The copying is too substantial for Ms. Bassen to not be compensated,” her lawyer, Brandon Dorsky, an entertainment lawyer for Los Angeles-based firm Winston Wolfe, told the Los Angeles Daily News. “Compensation to her would give hope to other designers who find themselves in a similar situation.”

While the artists feel confident in their case, Kurtz said, they never would have wanted this to happen.

“Tuesday is busy opening a storefront in LA as we speak,” he told artnet. “This is terrible timing for her in particular.”

Kurtz also offered some advice for Zara and other retailers.

“If you’re trying to steal something,” he said, “maybe don’t steal from a number of artists with a combined following of a million followers.”

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