Fashionista has maintained its Adventures in Copyright column for nearly as long as the site has been in existence, but it's been getting quite a bit more play in recent months than usual. Though the series was once primarily concerned with fast-fashion retailers knocking off higher-end brands, the past year has seen a flipping of tables. Now, we're hearing and more more from smaller, indie designers whose pieces are getting ripped off — or straight-up stolen — by bigger fashion houses like Gucci, Balenciaga and Saint Laurent, as well as Topshop and Asos.
Recent claims by Spanish handbag brand M2Malletier would add CH Carolina Herrera, a more contemporary offshoot of Carolina Herrera's luxury line, to the list. The item in question isn't an iconic jacket or lace-up detailing, as we've seen in previous cases; instead, it's a design element that Colombian design duo Melissa Losada Bofill and Marcela Vélez argues is integral to M2Malletier's brand identity.
The element in question is M2Malletier's signature linear bar handle, which was inspired by medieval tools and armor and has since been represented in each of the label's pieces. Following the M2Malletier's launch in 2012, its needle handle was trademarked under the brand's LLC, Umany Europe S.L. It didn't take long for M2Malletier to become a consumer and red carpet favorite, now sold at such retailers as Moda Operandi, Farfetch and Net-a-Porter and carried by red carpet mainstays like Emma Watson, Gabrielle Union, Evan Rachel Wood, Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, among others.
Earlier this year, CH Carolina Herrera introduced its Insignia Bag, which comes in more than 12 colorways and styles and with a remarkably similar handle; while the Insignia Bag's prices are not listed, M2Malletier's pieces fall at a luxury price point, from roughly $460 for a clutch to $6,300 for an alligator shoulder bag. Bofill and Vélez, both based in Barcelona, were immediately taken aback by the products' similarities, concerned that the Insignia Bag's handle could easily be mistaken for M2Malletier's in various situations.
Over the phone from Barcelona, Vélez explained that she initially had friends and peers coming to her mistaking the Insignia Bag for a collaboration or commissioned project between M2Malletier and CH Carolina Herrera.
"Something that we argue is we don't want to be related to CH," said Vélez. "We don't want to have anything to do with their brand; the ideas of the brands are completely different. People are confusing them. And that's another issue."
On April 4, 2017, M2Malletier's legal team issued a formal demand letter to STL and Puig Group, which own and operate CH Carolina Herrera, outlining a request for an out-of-court settlement. M2Malletier wrote in an email that after the letter's submission, both parties' lawyers met, after which CH Carolina Herrera reportedly submitted a response rejecting each point requested in the demand letter.
"Given this response and that CH Carolina Herrera has officially launched the Insignia Bag world-wide as their signature bag, M2MALLETIER is now exploring the possibility of a lawsuit against the owners of CH Carolina Herrera, STL and Puig Group, for copyright infringement, unfair competition, and risk of confusion and/or association," wrote M2Malletier.
Carolina Herrera has yet to respond to Fashionista's request for comment; in the meantime, Bofill and Vélez intend to fight for the brand they built five years ago, which includes considering a lawsuit, as mentioned above, and speaking out on Instagram.
"We should all help each other and work together and challenge each other to be more creative," said Vélez. "But don't steal these types of ideas."