Are Brooklyn Fashion Designers Being Ripped Off by Urban Outfitters?


If you’ve never been, Urban Outfitters is basically like the Gap for hipsters (or people who want “that look”). And if you’ve never been, the Brooklyn Flea Market is a wonderful place for local designers to show off their wares! It is also, via The Brooklyn Paper, a wonderful place to steal ideas from if you work for Urban Outfitters!

Update: Urban Outfitters ripped something off from Tumblr user Glam-Trash. Yes, this is still happening in 2013.

Funny: Normally, the cheap version comes from outside the store. Like in Chinatown! Where you can dig up a fake Gucci easier than you can discern what’s in your dumplings. But in Brooklyn, the cheap version starts at home, and moves its way into the stores. Like this!

Lillian Crowe, a 27-year-old jewelry designer in her first year of business, sells jewelry featuring a rib cage, a spine and the skull of a bull — yet recently discovered shockingly similar knockoffs in the new Urban Outfitters catalog online. Crowe said she unveiled her designs last March. The release date of Urban’s designs could not be confirmed, but it could not have been earlier than November, 2009, based on online comments.

To top it off, Crowe noticed three other designs that she said were similar to those of other designers. One was a shark jaw necklace — on the market since fall 2008 — by a designer who calls her line “Species by the Thousands.”

Said designer then goes on to register her skepticism with the idea that Urban Outfitters “stole” the idea from her, but it’s also then noted that Urban has a wholesale order of rings with her. So maybe you have to let the other team score a few on you to get your own? An Urban order is, after all, a big deal for a designer! They’re huge and all over America, and kids who want “that look” shop there. That said, as shopping blog Racked points out:

You’ll note a theme here: Bones and other macabre bits of nature are big right now, and … it’s hard to claim trademark on a design that’s based on casting a found object. Both designers also note that copying runs rampant in the jewelry business, although the paper finds a third, anonymous source to argue that Urban has a particularly bad reputation as a ripoff artist.

That anonymous source isn’t wrong.

Urban jacked this design in 2007:

And this one in 2006:

Which is especially funny, because Urban Outfitters once accused Forever 21 — another fashion chain store selling cheap “looks” that are often just ripoffs of their more expensive inspirations — of stealing its ideas. The point is — as the designers point out — that everyone steals from everyone, and if you have an original idea, there’s nothing you can do, because there’s someone out there with less creativity than you (but a more entrepreneurial spirit) who will exploit your originality and leave you on the side of the road.

Related: Urban Outfitters, Still Stealing Designs from Local Artists