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Balenciaga is being sued over its kitschy New York bag

An NY souvenir company has accused the label of copyright infringement

Sometimes, Demna Gvasalia’s cheeky references to everyday culture can blow up on social media (see: his DHL t-shirt and Ikea bag ‘copies’) but now one seems to have landed the Vetements/Balenciaga designer in hot water. Specifically, Balenciaga’s “Multicoloured New York Bazar Shopper” tote bag has prompted a New York souvenir company, City Merchandise Inc., to file a lawsuit against the label, alleging copyright infringement.

The $1,950 kitschy pink tote, with glam lettering and mixed-up NY skyline imagery, made its debut at Balenciaga’s Resort 2018 show late last year. But City Merchandise Inc. object to the tote’s resemblance of its own bags (which could be picked up in a gift shop at JFK Airport for about $19.99, btw), alleging that Balenciaga’s designs are “virtually indistinguishable”, as first reported by Fashionista.

"Whimsical and appealing layouts and arrangements, compilations and/or collages, skyline perspectives, depicted objects and environmental elements, color schemes and shading, highlighting and bordering, shapes and sizes," are all things that the brand claim have been copied from its original artwork.

It’s an interesting case. ‘Borrowing’ from other brands and labels is pretty much a staple of today’s fashion industry (just scroll down Diet Prada’s Instagram feed for hundreds of examples), often fuelled by buyers’ desire for the ironic aesthetic. Even Demna himself has acknowledged the industry's (and his own) tendency towards appropriation, which perhaps peaked at his “elephant in the room” themed AW18 show, when he self-consciously copied iconic Margiela pieces including its signature Tabi boot. 

Will the lawsuit change anything? We’ll have to wait and see.