Did Forever 21 Copy This Local Designer's Print?

Photos: Forever 21 and Jenny Lemons

Photos: Forever 21 and Jenny Lemons

Local designer and DIY-class queen Jennie Lennick, (a.k.a. Jenny Lemons), has a bone to pick with Forever 21.

Yesterday, Lennick shared photos on Instagram of a Forever 21 textile that bears a striking resemblance to a banana-printed gingham that Lennick has been making for years. In her post, she wrote, "Today, I found out that @Forever21 copied one of my original textile patterns, I have been making my gingham banana tank since my company began in 2015 and it is a staple of my line. They are selling their version for $17.90. We sell ours for $78. Their lazy lack of creativity and manufacturing principles are both upsetting and unethical." 

Rockyt contacted the Forever 21 press office for a comment on the matter. As of publication time, the brand had not responded.

Disputes between designers and fast fashion brands over copycat tactics are nothing new. Companies like Forever 21, Zara, and Steve Madden are frequently the subjects of lawsuits and cease and desist letters when they're caught mimicking other designers. But not all copies are equally shady.

According to Mintz Levin, a law firm that works in the fashion intellectual property space, "Copyright protection may not be obtained in any 'useful' articles with an intrinsic utilitarian function... A design on fabric used to make clothing, however, can be protected by copyright if it meets the originality and nonfunctionality standards for copyrightability." 

Let's frame that in terms any DVF fan can understand: DVF's prints are protected by copyright. Her wrap dress design is not.

While it seems unlikely a mega-corporation would knock off a small San Francisco brand, it happens more than you might imagine. Last year, local shoemaker Allbirds sued Steve Madden for ripping off its wool sneakers. Similarly, Future Glory founder Theresa Lee sent cease and desist letters to Zara and Forever 21 for imitating her Rockwell ring bag designs. (Lee created the bag in 2015, and both companies released their own versions in 2016.) Lee says Zara pulled its duplicates from the shelf, but "Forever 21 never even bothered to respond."

What does that mean for Lennick?

According to her Instagram post, Lennick is seeking legal counsel and attempting to copyright her designs, logo, and name. But, unless she has deep pockets or free legal counsel for a fight against Forever 21, she's unlikely to see any relief in the present banana-print dispute.