Artist Accuses Forever 21 of Stealing His Work

Forever 21 has been sued over 50 times on similar claims.

Forever 21's shirt copying Sam Larson'a Wild design. Photo courtesy of Forever 21.

Corporate rip-offs of independent artist’s work have become unfortunately ubiquitous—both American Eagle and Starbucks have come under fire in the past year for allegedly using designs without obtaining permission from (or compensating) the original artists. Jezebel reports that the latest corporation to attract these allegations is Forever 21, and it isn’t looking too good for the fast fashion giant, at least as far as their reputation on social media is concerned.

On September 28, artist Sam Larson posted to his Instagram account an image of a drawing he created two years ago next to a recently-manufactured Forever 21 t-shirt with a strikingly similar graphic.

“I normally keep this stuff private,” he wrote beneath the photo, “but this is just too ridiculous. I hope you plan on paying me royalties for stealing my art @forever21.”

The post has since received 12k likes and spawned the hashtag #PaySamLarson, which supporters have begun posting to the brand’s Facebook page and on Twitter. A screenshot of the post reached the front page of popular image hosting site Imgur yesterday. Comments like “On behalf of the Las Vegas fine arts community, we support you burning down one of those stores” follow the original Instagram post, and a post detailing Larson’s story is currently trending on BuzzFeed.

Larson told BuzzFeed that he used to design for a footwear company and now freelances as an artist and designer. He also sells his work on his personal website, Steel Bison. His drawings and designs have earned him an Instagram following of over 250,000 people.

But while self-promotion is a necessary part of making a living as an independent designer or artist, the flip side is that unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Larson has watched a corporation steal his work and use it to turn a profit.

“It happens all the time with my work,” he told BuzzFeed. “It’s gut wrenching to see my art turned into a product without any permission to try to profit from. It’s just wrong.”

Sam Larson, <em>Wild</em>. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Sam Larson, Wild. Photo courtesy of the artist.

As Jezebel’s Joanna Rothkopf notes, Forever 21 has been sued over 50 times for allegedly stealing the work of artists, fashion designers, and even other chains like H&M, with whom they are currently embroiled in a lawsuit. Whether or not Larson plans to take legal action against the company remains to be seen. Forever 21 has refused to comment on the matter, but hopefully, art-loving would-be customers of the chain will think twice before shopping there.

The incident also serves as a somber reminder that social media is a breeding ground for intellectual property theft. After all, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from Richard Prince, it’s that once you post something on Instagram, you can kiss it (and the 90k you never knew it was worth) goodbye.

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