French teen hat designer Millinsky says he’s battled a constant flood of fakes and lookalikes of his work since Rihanna stepped out in one of his caps
Often copying outright from the catwalk, fast fashion has long operated on a model of ripping off existing designs to make a quick buck – now, however, people are starting to pay attention. LA designer Tuesday Bassen’s claims that Zara had copied her work (and subsequently asserted that she was too unimportant for her copyright claim to hold up) sparked outrage online, and in the days that followed it emerged that over 40 other designers had apparently fallen victim. But it’s not just Zara – as Julie Zerbo of The Fashion Law pointed out, American retailer Forever 21 seems to be another culprit, currently facing 30 lawsuits this year alone.
Earlier this year we introduced you to NASASEASONS, the fashion brainchild of teenage designer Millinsky – who hopped into the DMs of his favourite music superstars and got them all to wear his hat designs. Spotted on everyone from Rihanna to Wiz Khalifa and a host of internet it-kids, his signature caps have become hugely popular – and, he says, hugely copied. Last night, Millinsky called out Forever 21 on Instagram for selling a t-shirt with something very close to his famous “I came to break hearts” slogan on – but as he alleges, his ideas have been borrowed everywhere from LA stores to Chinese e-commerce sites.
Have you had your work stolen before?
Millinsky: If you search online for ‘I came to break hearts’, you can find many brands selling fakes – on Amazon.com alone there are six different types, and they are also on powerful online stores with millions of followers on Instagram as well as (Chinese e-commerce site) AliExpress. My ‘Almost Famous’ hat is also copied a lot, and I know that some physical stores in LA and Asia have been selling fake NASASEASONS. It all started a month after Rihanna was seen wearing my hats. Another big company used the phrase ‘I came to break hearts’ on a pair of shorts and now a brand is selling t-shirts with a picture of my ‘I came to break hearts’ hat on it...
How does it make you feel?
Millinsky: Mostly very proud and it helps me realise the potential of my designs. Since there are so many fakes that also sell out quickly, I guess thousands of people have been buying my hats in some way. It’s crazy because it’s such a simple idea – to put a phrase on a hat – but damn, people like it so much. I actually bought a fake version of my hat and I wore it for few days because in a sense it’s cool, but in the case of Forever 21 I feel very angry because we all know that those big corporations use other artists’ creativity to make thousands of dollars and they will deny any resemblance because they have the best lawyers in the world in that domain. Companies the size of Forever 21 or Zara act so arrogantly towards the artists they steal the ideas from and basically answer any claim with, ‘I am too busy making real money. Fuck off, nobody knows you’. I hate that. It’s injustice.
Why do you think big companies steal?
Millinsky: They are trying to be cool so badly, that’s the reason. I looked on Forever 21’s Instagram, they post pictures of Kanye although we all know he hates corporations like them – he even made fun of them in the song “Bound 2”. They want to understand why an item is so cool but they will never be able to create a trend that celebrities or rappers would love to wear. As a result, they attract a specific market: people who have seen my hats on Rihanna or Wiz Khalifa but don’t really know the name of my brand (NASASEASONS) or that I am the designer. This category of people will see the ‘came to break hearts’ phrase in Forever 21 and will buy it because they know Rihanna wore it somehow a few times.
“The scariest thing is that the market of people buying fakes is way larger than the one made up of people who actually care about brands...it’s easy for Forever 21 to make a lot of money off a cool idea that they didn’t create” – Millinsky
How much do you see that as a threat to your brand?
Millinsky: The scariest thing is that the market of people buying fakes is way larger than the one made up of people who actually care about brands and want to know which brand did it first. This market is composed of people who want to dress cool but don’t have much interest or time to spend reading fashion magazines or looking on Instagram to see what’s new and what’s cool, so big corporations are here to serve them that and make them buy fakes. So with its big influence and hundreds of stores, it’s easy for big companies to make a lot of money off a cool idea that they didn’t create. I created all the hype around the hats and spent months and months working on how to make my products cool, but in the end it will be them who get the biggest financial benefit from my handiwork.
Is there anything you think you can do about it?
Millinsky: It’s pretty hard to know what to do at this point because I already checked with some lawyers and Forever 21 didn’t lose any of their trials in the past. Nevertheless, I own the copyright ‘I came to break hearts’ as well as many others, so it would be easy for me to sue other stores selling my hats. My team is working on that. In the meantime, I just try to see all of this as good publicity in some way.
We have reached out to Forever 21’s reps for comment and will update this if we hear back.