Designer Eliza Starbuck on Why Feral Childe Might Actually Win Against Forever21, and Why You Should Care

To no one's surprise, fast-fashion juggernaut Forever21 has just been named in another copyright-infringement suit, this time at the hands of eco-conscious, indie label Feral Childe. Again, to no one's surprise, the print in question, pictured above left, does indeed look identical to Feral Childe's original Teepees print, above right. Actually the only surprise is that, sadly, given Forever21's track record for winning suits, the retailer may get away scot-free--But not if Eliza Starbuck has anything to say about it. The Brooklyn-based designer started an online petition with Change.org to help ensure Feral Childe's pleas are heard. Yesterday, we caught up with Starbuck to ask her how she got involved, and why she thinks this time, Forever21 might actually listen.
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To no one's surprise, fast-fashion juggernaut Forever21 has just been named in another copyright-infringement suit, this time at the hands of eco-conscious, indie label Feral Childe. Again, to no one's surprise, the print in question, pictured above left, does indeed look identical to Feral Childe's original Teepees print, above right. Actually the only surprise is that, sadly, given Forever21's track record for winning suits, the retailer may get away scot-free--But not if Eliza Starbuck has anything to say about it. The Brooklyn-based designer started an online petition with Change.org to help ensure Feral Childe's pleas are heard. Yesterday, we caught up with Starbuck to ask her how she got involved, and why she thinks this time, Forever21 might actually listen.
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To no one's surprise, fast-fashion juggernaut Forever21 has just been named in another copyright-infringement suit, this time at the hands of eco-conscious, indie label Feral Childe. Again, to no one's surprise, the print in question, pictured above left, does indeed look identical to Feral Childe's original Teepees print, above right.

Actually the only surprise is that, sadly, given Forever21's track record for winning suits, the retailer may get away scot-free--But not if Eliza Starbuck has anything to say about it. The Brooklyn-based designer started an online petition with Change.org to help ensure Feral Childe's pleas are heard. Yesterday, we caught up with Starbuck to ask her how she got involved, and why she thinks this time, Forever21 might actually listen.

Fashionista: Why did you decide to start the petition? Eliza Starbuck: I was reading a lot of good stories about Feral Childe vs Forever21 and i got interested. I was thinking: how else can I help to spread the word, how else can I help Feral Childe? Something like this, it has happened over and over again with Forever21 but because Feral Childe is an eco-conscious brand--a brand that really the fashion world should be buying from, backing up and heralding as the future, the way we should all be doing things now--the lawsuit hit home to me even more.

Do you think eco-conscious brands are particularly vulnerable to, or hurt by, design piracy? Eco-labels are highest risk because they're working so hard to do things the right way, they have a much lower profit margin. So to have a label that's really working hard to source and produce everything eco-consciously, to have their design be ripped off by a retailer like Forever21 and sold for $16, is a huge blow. It's a blow to the label, but it's also a blow to the fashion industry, in general, because if cases like this continue to happen, eco-conscious and indie labels will not be able to grow.

What do you hope to accomplish with the petition? A few things. Yes, we hope to get compensation from Forever21 from the designers. But on a bigger level, we're hoping to educate people--not even fashion people, specifically but everyone--about what goes on behind the scenes at places like Forever21. We hope that if we make enough noise, and enough consumers side with us, then Forever21 might actually have to listen.

So are you hoping for the change to come at a consumer-level? Yes, exactly. We want to expose Forever21's bad practices and to raise the average consumer's consciousness--to show how negative an impact design piracy can have not just on the designers, but on the future of our design world. Hopefully that will make people less interested in shopping at places like Forever21, and hopefully that will actually get Forever21 to make some changes.

Yesterday, Racked reported that the reason Forever21 kept winning lawsuits, is that they don't actually design or manufacture clothing. Do you think this will affect the lawsuit? Yes. I recently got an update from Feral Childe's lawyers saying that they've identified a factory in LA, who supplied Forever21 with the copied design, and they are also being sued.