Urban Outfitters, one of the most popular clothing stores for teenagers to twenty-somethings has been largely dishonest with its trendy and seemingly unique clothing items. Many artists have accused the hugely successful clothing company of using their art without compensation or credit. Plagiarism of this stature has been going on for years within Urban Outfitters and the company seems to have no qualms about ripping off talented artists.
Notoriously known for stealing artwork from Etsy artists, as well as artists selling and creating on differing platforms, Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie (a shop owned by Urban Outfitters) show up on social media often for their theft. One of the more famous cases of theft, in which Urban Outfitters actually provided comment, is from a necklace designer in Chicago. In 2011 Stevie Koerner accused the major retailer of plagiarizing her original necklace design, which is a sterling silver state shape with a heart punch-out to represent a city dear to the wearer. While Urban Outfitters and an attorney familiar with infringement cases agree that the shape of a state with a heart is hard to claim as one’s unique design, the major retailer told Koerner that it planned on removing the necklace from its website.
More recently Urban Outfitters released an interesting pattern on a skirt which was surprisingly reminiscent of a pattern created by an artist named Spires. Outraged, Spires exploited the massive retailer’s theft on her blog and urged followers to share the issue on social media. This particular incident happened late last week.
Experts warn that unless a pattern or design is protected by copyright, it is very difficult to win a lawsuit against a retailer if one were to be pursued. Many speculate that Urban Outfitters risks stealing from artists due to its dominance within the industry. The likelihood of artists actually paying for and winning a case is slim. Being “caught” and forced to reimburse artists for theft of creative property is very unlikely. However, one thing is certain: Urban Outfitters is now victim to years of disgruntled artists and potential customers whom are angry that the retailer would rip off artists, consequently refusing to shop the trendy store.
Urban Outfitters has publicly stated that it prefers to support small-time artists by buying wholesale on Etsy and paying others for their designs. There could be a chance that the similarities between the retailer’s designs and independent artists who were not acknowledged or compensated are coincidence. Urban Outfitters has also made a point to inform media and the public that in a case such as Koerner’s, it is hard to say if she is the creator of the state and heart design because there were artists with very similar creations posted a year before Koerner’s work existed on the website.
Despite constant claims otherwise made by the retailer, there are many incidents involving obvious theft of small-time artists’ creative properties and Urban Outfitters. While some may be passable as coincidence, many more are unfair incidents of an artist’s work being exploited for no gain to the artist involved. Urban Outfitters has experienced a roller coaster of success, with hard-hitting theft accusations at the core. Even though Urban Outfitters has been ripping off artists for years it does not seem likely that the retailer will come clean once and for all.
Opinion by Courtney Heitter