When Moschino designer Jeremy Scott sent models down the runway in graffiti-emblazoned evening gowns for the label’s autumn/winter 2015 collection, no one batted an eyelash. After all, Scott isn’t exactly known for demure creations suited to shrinking violets.
But Vogue reports that one person has a big problem with the decidedly garish collection, and it isn’t some stuffy fashion critic. It’s Joseph Tierney, better known as Rime, a graffiti writer and street artist who filed suit against Scott and Moschino yesterday for allegedly copying an artwork that he did in Detroit in 2012.
“Rime is a well-known artist. Defendants Moschino and Jeremy Scott—two household names in high fashion—inexplicably placed Rime’s art on their highest-profile apparel without his knowledge or consent,” the lawsuit reads.
“If this literal misappropriation were not bad enough, Moschino and Jeremy Scott did their own painting over that of the artist—superimposing the Moschino and Jeremy Scott brand names in spray-paint style as if part of the original work.”
Tierney is especially incensed by the fact that pop star Katy Perry walked the red carpet at this year’s Met Ball in a dress that bears a striking resemblance to his Detroit creation. The dress landed her on several worst-dressed lists for the evening.
“The idea of putting graffiti—or “street” art—on ultra-expensive clothing was meant to provoke and generate publicity for the brand/designer,” the lawsuit posits.
“The Defendants were obviously thrilled with how the episode played out, heavily promoting images of Ms. Perry wearing the clothing in their marketing, advertising, media, and sales materials. The only person harmed was Rime. Not only was his art exploited by Defendants, but his credibility as a graffiti artist was compromised by inclusion in such a crass and commercial publicity stunt.”
Rime is just the latest in a series of street artists who have had their work co-opted by fashion brands from American Eagle to Coach. It’s not just the fashion community that’s the target of finger-pointing—Starbucks was recently sued by an artist for allegedly using her designs on Frappuccino cups—but as mainstream interest in street art grows, brands naturally want to use the popularity of the urban aesthetic to sell clothes.
The question, of course, is why can’t brands who have millions in the bank team up with street artists on licensed collaborations, where creators are paid for the use of their imagery? After all, fashion brands team up with gallery-represented artists and artist estates all the time.
Tierney is demanding that Moschino cease selling the items that he claims infringe his artwork, as well as pay significant damages. Moschino has not yet released a comment regarding the charges.
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