Instagram is an incredible tool for smaller brands that are trying to get their work out there, and many have turned their engaged follower base into customers. But the app's rise has also meant that finding indie brands to steal designs from has become easier than ever for mega retailers — as exemplified by Forever 21 and Rue 21's recent "borrowing" from indie label Valfré.
Valfré is a Los Angeles-based independent clothing and accessory line started by Mexican-born artist Ilse Valfré. After getting her initial start sharing her artwork in online spaces like Tumblr while working at a preschool, Valfré eventually quit her day job to focus full-time on the brand. And while she's gained a good deal of recognition — she's been written up in the likes of Forbes and Nylon, and her brand is distributed in over 250 stores worldwide — her ability to entice customers with offerings that feel unique is diminished when her style is echoed (or outright copied) by other brands.
"People come to Valfré for unique products that aren't mass produced," Valfré told Fashionista over email. "Forever 21 is in the business of mass producing and that's how they are able to offer the pricing that they do."
Forever 21 and Rue 21 have both released pieces that look so strikingly similar to Valfré designs that they're almost exact copies. Among the pieces in question is a rainbow iPhone case being sold at Forever 21 that is a mirror image of the Valfré design, sans the indie label's logo. Rue 21 appears to have taken other Valfré phone case designs, like the seashell, "boys' tears" and lipstick designs, and made them into earbuds.
While many cases of intellectual property infringement aren't exactly black-and-white, the similarities between Valfré's designs and the alleged copies being sold by Forever 21 and Rue 21 seem pretty blatant. Valfré is currently pursuing legal action with regards to the designs in question.
"When companies like Forever 21 steal designs from independent companies like Valfré, they dilute the value of our products and our brand," said Valfré. "That's why we take these things so seriously and why we have hired legal representation to help us deal with the situation."