It’s no secret that Demna Gvasalia is fan of appropriating images from pop culture and elsewhere. Some obvious examples from the last couple of years have been the DHL tee he designed for Vetements, and bags for Balenciaga, including a kitschy New York tourist tote and an Ikea “copy” (who could forget?).
Gvasalia is no stranger to controversy about his inspirations either, having faced lawsuits for some of the aforementioned pieces. But this time it’s not the law he’s facing: instead, it’s Courtney Love.
Love has taken issue with a t-shirt that appeared in Vetements’ punk-laden AW19 collection. Specifically, a (pretty undeniable) iteration of a shirt Kurt Cobain wore to take a jab at the music industry in a 1992 Rolling Stone cover shoot that reads, in all caps, “corporate magazines still suck”.
Admittedly, the Vetements design does add a phrase on the end – “a lot!” with an anarchic A – but that hasn’t stopped the backlash. On a May 18 Instagram post showcasing the t-shirt, Love has commented: “You guys WHAT the FUCK? I hate being put in this position. You should know better!”
Since Love has had a rocky past regarding her share of Cobain’s legacy – Rolling Stone reported that she sold a share of his rights in 2006 and she also allegedly lost rights to his image in 2012 – it’s not entirely clear whether the reference would be a potential infringement worthy of a lawsuit.
It’s not the first time Nirvana-inspired designs have caused problems, either. Late last year the band attempted to sue Marc Jacobs for allegedly using their iconic smiley face (their claims were later refuted by Jacobs’ lawyers).
That time, though, Love had the fashion label’s back, expressing her support in a statement and praising the design on social media. We’re yet to see what comes of her quite different reaction this time around.