Thursday, May 26, 2011

I am trying to say something but no one is listening...


Most of you who read this blog are also people who spent heaps of time on social media, so you probably already know about this situation.

Basically, Urban Outfitters, a large chain store in the US, Canada, and I think the UK (is it anywhere else? Online too I guess) has once again copied and mass produced an artist's handmade design.

The obvious response from Urban Outfitters, after receiving negative feedback from all over the internet, is that they have stopped selling the product on their website. They have pretty much said "Oops, sorry about that."

An apology is just not good enough. If you continue to buy products from unethical stores, like Urban Outfitters (or American Apparel for that matter) then they will continue to steal designs and make money from them. They are only making products that they think that they can sell. If their (copied, sweatshop made, sexually exploitative etc) products do not sell, they will not sell them next time. They will either go out of business, or come up with new ideas and things will get better.

In a broader sense, why don't you just think about everything you purchase. Research and understand what is advertising jargon designed to make you feel better about buying something. Buzzwords like 'organic', 'handmade', 'GM free', 'all natural' etc can mean a lot of different things, and do not immediately mean something is better or more ethically produced. Don't just take things at face value, even if they are pretty and shiny. An example of something which frustrates me to no end is when people buy fake designer furniture... if the original, beautiful wooden lounge chair is specially made by craftspeople and out of your range monetarily, getting a factory made copy is exactly the same as buying an Urban Outfitters version of a handmade necklace.

Being an intelligent, informed person is fun and rewarding (if a little disheartening sometimes), but I definitely recommend it if you want to live the best life you can (eudaimonia, man).

13 comments:

Hannah Percyowl said...

I've heard about this type of thing before, and it's really quite shameful for a large company to do something like that. Especially when it's something like a photo or picture that has been directly ripped off. At least have the decency to offer the artist a payment!
I often worry about putting my pictures etc on the web for that reason.
But it happens everyday - especially in the fashion industy. Almost every item of clothing in a chain store has been ripped off from a catwalk. Everything was made by someone originally, and I suppose that makes grey areas too. As much as I would love to buy the $1000 original jacket I can't afford it either, and I never could.
I try to look for original designers/artist though(hello etsy!).
Yesterday in Lovisa I found a necklace that was so blatantly a rip-off of Karen Walker I couldn't believe it. I seriously think they made a mould of it. I didn't buy it.

Sharks Keep Moving said...

Well said, Sarah.

greta @ topography said...

Thanks for posting this, it is so interesting. While it is disgusting what some companies think they can get away with, I love that the immediacy of social networking must be a real pain in the ass for them

lushr said...

totally agree.

chris said...

I agree completely.

Getting the products taken down isnt a victory it's the least that should happen. The problem is that as they make their products so cheaply and sell them at a massive mark up they have probably already money on these before they were taken down.

So taken them down doesn't really hurt them. I really wish there was a way for people being ripped off to take legal action. I fear that's the only way that they'll stop this.

For every case like this of them ripping off people that many people know on the internet there are probably 5 people that aren't as well know getting their work ripped off without people realising.

And the solution is simple, UO could just talk to these artists, ask them to produce a design for them, license their work or sell their originals. Everyone wins.

catface said...

I do agree with this. It really disheartens me when companies do this sort of thing and think it's ok because they are bigger than the designer. It needs to stop.

Kim said...

I agree. I feel really silly because I'd been really good and I stopped checking for a bit. And now I've inadvertently bought something from them. I wonder how Asos compares to these companies?
But thankyou for bringing me back down to earth!

anja said...

Thanks for this post, Sarah! I feel the same way. It's crazy to me that companies like this can make so much money, when most of what they are selling is junk. Ethical reasons aside, any shopper should be able to see that the quality is seriously lacking. I just can't imaging spending my money on that sort of thing. In terms of the shit that people are supporting by shopping at stores like this, copyright issues are the lesser evil, which I think is what you're saying too. I get so bummed when I think of the hoards of teenagers and weird ladies who LOVE Urban/Anthropologie and would never consider giving a fuck about their shopping choices. Have you heard about Asos and their claim that they are "green", because of some weird trade-in program they introduced? I actually haven't looked back to see if they ever started doing it, but it's a pretty weak attempt at branding themselves as an ethical company.

But also, I'm impressed that the online action against this necklace thing was so swift and huge! That must be a record for the fastest removal of an offending product on Urban, ever. I remember when it was all about the t-shirts with stolen art (I bet this still happens) but I can't remember hearing many positive results from those battles.

Barbara Ruth Saunders said...

There is a way to take legal action. Register the copyright before selling things, and sue when the big company uses them. That is expensive, impractical, and unfair, but that protection does exist. Also, this is not just a corporate problem, SMALL artists steal from other small artists all the time. They don't make millions from it, but that doesn't make it better. In some ways, it's even more despicable.

handmade romance said...

well said.
thoughtful, ethical, consumerism is something i have been making a real effort in doing and truly wish many more would too. stores such as these can not continue the way they are if we wish to see change and it is the consumer which drives this change. they are only selling what they know sells. stop buying form them and they have to reconsider in order to stay in business.

Sarah McNeil said...

Thanks for all the great comments! It's good to know that other people care too :)

Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys said...

In fact, an article I read suggested that similarly designed necklaces had been floating around Etsy before the woman suing even opened her shops (if these are the state-shaped necklaces we're talking about). While I do think that Urban Outfitters is an atrocious brand with atrocious prices and quality, I agree with the comment that artist-to-artist theft is also rampant. Or perhaps we should call it inspiration?

herman and ivy said...

Boo to this situation, but yay for the online comradery that exists!