In today's installment of Adventures in Copyright, we take you to the wild world of Instagrammable athleticwear, in which one millennial-beloved mega-brand is claiming another looked to its signature aesthetic a bit too closely.
As you may have seen yourself over the weekend, Outdoor Voices' founder and CEO Tyler Haney took to her Instagram Stories on Sunday to address speculation that Bandier had ripped off the Austin-based activewear stalwart's recognizable color-blocking, alleging that each item in Bandier's new line with Net-a-Porter, We Over Me, is a copycat of a preexisting Outdoor Voices style. Outdoor Voices' vocal followers flooded Bandier's Instagram comments, much in the style of a 21st-century smear campaign, not long after: At press time, Bandier's We Over Me announcement post has garnered 547 comments, while its previous post, a pair of velvet Air Force 1s, has just 73.
In a quote provided to Fashionista, Haney expressed that while she hasn't publicly acknowledged such allegations in the past, she "felt compelled to address it directly" this time:
We built OV as an inclusive, positive brand to encourage people to start Doing Things. When other companies imitate our product, it undermines the creativity that goes into designing it, but more important, our mission; we're building something much bigger than ourselves, and we're proud of it.
It's touching and exciting to see such loyalty in our community — hundreds of people have stepped up and spoken out — and I’m excited to keep building OV together. We have amazing product in the pipeline, and a limitless opportunity to build a brand based on originality and positivity.
Bandier, however, isn't going to go quietly into the night: On Monday, the retailer's CEO Neil Boyarksy told such outlets as Fast Company and Racked that Outdoor Voices "does not own [color-blocking] as a style of design." The company has also issued a statement, pasted in full below:
Ty Haney has built an amazing business and we admire and respect her, from one female founded business to another. However, she has decided to attack BANDIER, as well as our customers and supporters with unsubstantiated claims that have hurt many people. Colorblocking is a trend. However, We Over Me as a brand has completely unique fabric, fit and construction. Our intention was to create something unique in the marketplace and we are confident that we executed on that.
While there's no word yet whether Outdoor Voices will be pursuing legal action against Bandier, or if the brand is even considering it, we asked an editor at Fashionista's sister site, Above the Law, if Outdoor Voices had grounds for a proper infringement claim. According to our friends at Above the Law, that depends. In an interview with Fast Company, Haney claimed that Outdoor Voices makes a "technical, functional product" — "so if there's a novel construction technique that Outdoor Voices has patented," says Above the Law, infringement isn't out of the question.
Otherwise, Above the Law notes that "while it's not particularly fair to Outdoor Voices," the similarities between the two brands may also just be an aesthetic issue between competitors, rather than something that could be taken to court.
The key here, then, comes down to the fabric. Boyarksy told Fast Company that "there are at least four points of major difference in construction of the garment," and that "the fabric itself is very different — soft to the touch and lightweight." Additionally, he noted that We Over Me's "two-tone color combinations and cut-out elements" are all "commonly used by a multitude of other apparel companies," like Fabletics, Kate Hudson's activewear brand, pictured below, or even Old Navy.
So, is this just a matter of a stylistics that, it can certainly be argued, Outdoor Voices started when it launched in 2014, or is there something meatier at play? We have a feeling we haven't heard the last of whatever's going on here, so we'll keep you posted as this story develops.