As an artist, you take your work seriously.
Independent artists in all genres have used social platform sites to share their talents with the world, as well as using the interactions to build up client and fan bases. Social media isn’t a passing phase or a game. People are running businesses and getting paid off the strength of social media exposure. New products, brands and social trends are being discovered every day. Being that it is all encompassing, it makes it a bit tricky at times to make cases for of figuring out intellectual property. It’s definitely getting a bit easier to connect things to their original sources; however, it isn’t perfect yet. That being said, this level of exposure makes it a lot easier for comparisons to be made when things start looking fishy. It does not matter what your specialty is, whether it be audio, visual, written or fashion inclined. You pour your heart into your art, spending copious amounts of time perfecting your craft and streamlining it to yourself and your brand so that if someone else were to come across your work- they’d know it was yours.
About a week ago, a designer named Destiney Bleu (@dbleudazzled @destineybleu), publicly shared her anger after being alerted to the fact that a bodysuit that looked eerily similar to hers was at a photo shoot promoting Khloe Kardashian’s Good American clothing line.
It wasn’t Destiney’s bodysuit.
Destiney then made it public knowledge that the Kardashian/Jenner family owned some of her pieces, and that Khloe or someone on her team had recently bought one of every item Destiney had up for sale, in addition to requesting some custom pieces be made (https://twitter.com/destineybleu/status/870733561682210820). Destiney then went on to say that she was surprised and thought they were going to wear her pieces to an upcoming event… only to realize through the photo shoot posts, that they just wanted samples of her pieces to replicate. After the tweets gained some editorial attention and Destiney started doing interviews, Khloe’s team issued a statement along with throwback photos stating that it wasn’t their intention to copy off Destiney and that Khloe had ‘drawn inspiration’ from old stage costumes that Cher and others used to wear.
It’s worth noting that Destiney has created bodysuits for a few of Beyoncé’s tours and performances. She’s had Serena Williams in her wears. Her work is being featured in Elle Magazine. A complaint from her is not going to brushed aside easily, she’s got a working resume long enough for people to pay attention.
A few days ago, Kylie Jenner then introduced her camouflage swim line that will be dropping soon… only many people recognized the concept as being done already by (@pluggednycstore @theplugsdaughterr). Also of no surprise, Kylie owns and has been pictured in pieces created by the brand. Again, this brand has been seen on musical acts such as Little Mix, Jhene Aiko and most notably, Rihanna. You would know the brand when you see it (https://twitter.com/pluggednycstore/status/872943886959865857) . Which makes you wonder-
Why copy something so visible?
Because you think you can get away with it.
These aren’t isolated incidents that are particular to just them either. These are just two highly visible cases of an ongoing problem with intellectual and creative property being stolen from independent artists by bigger entities and used for substantial gain, while their creators are being shut down legally. Every independent artist isn’t lucky enough to be as well-known and to have the backing to push back against their ideas being co-opted.
Case in point. We have Peaches Monroe, who coined the term “fleek” back in 2015(?) and never saw a dime of all the revenue that was generated from multitudes of big brands and businesses, who quickly threw her word onto hats, cups, keychains, phone cases, etc. Again, through the power of social media, many independent artists reached out to the young woman, letting her know that she could sue and have a case to see at least some of the money that was being made off of her coined term. But by the time she decided to act, it was too late to get some sort of financial justice.
It lends to the very disturbing trend to steal concepts from women of color and then have white women marketing it as something new and never before seen. Using the Kardashians as an example, they’ve economically stolen everything not nailed down, and then turned it for profit while not crediting or paying who they got it from. They have the backing of their status and family name to be able to do so, much to the demise of many a small business and creator, thus making their outcry a faint memory on the 24-hour media cycle. We need better laws and guidelines on intellectual and creative property or sadly, this is going to continue to be something that plays out.
As a creator, that’s just not acceptable.
Written by Aubri Elle