Nasty Gal filed for bankruptcy late last week. The Los Angeles based brand, which swiftly catapulted to success after getting its start as an eBay-only vintage shop, has become well known – since its launch in 2008 – for its stocking of line-for-line knockoffs of runway designs and indie designers’ creations. Hardly shocking, this is the business model for fast fashion retailers. Nasty Gal has, however, taken it a bit too far from time to time (or somewhat regularly) in terms of the garments and accessories it stocks. Here is a handful of some of the brand’s most egregious copies, some of which could, in fact, be illegal …
Remember when the Los Angeles-based retailer took to its Instagram to share a photo of Taylor Swift on the Billboard Music Awards red carpet along with the caption: “One-piece wonder. Taylor Swift in the Nasty Gal Frisco Inferno Jumpsuit.” The problem: Swift was wearing Balmain, and not Nasty Gal’s egregious Balmain copy. So, either Nasty Gal’s social media editor saw a marketing opportunity to trick consumers and boost sales (our money is on the option) OR was legitimately confused due to the very blatant nature of Nasty Gal’s copy. Either way, Nasty Gal lost when the entire fashion internet caught on.
Quite often we see fast fashion retailers selling copies of high fashion garments and accessories because design piracy is a perfectly legal practice in the United States (for the most part). However, one tactic that's definitely not legal is copying an image that appears on another brand's wares and putting it on your own. Case in point: Nasty Gal's "Vicious tote." Unlike plain old design piracy (for which there is very little protection available via copyright law), there is protection for pictorial, sculptural and graphic works under U.S. copyright law. Nasty Gal's blatant imitation of Givenchy's super-popular Rottweiler design is a perfect example.
On the heels of designer Joseph Altuzarra’s Spring/Summer 2015 show, Nasty Gal was obviously quite taken with the brand’s stand-out latticework pieces, which were woven into a collection of pink Gingham prints and asymmetric wrap dresses and skirts.
Before Nasty Gal started stocking Di$count Universe, it copied Di$count Universe. In April 2013, the Los Angeles-based company (with the help of supplier, Reverse) began selling copies of the works of independent Australian label and fellow online retailer, Di$count Universe. The garments at issue: Di$count's hand-sequined All Seeing Eye crop top vs. Reverse's Eye Candy crop top (stocked by Nasty Gal) AND Di$count's Bones skirt vs. Reverse's X Ray skirt (also stocked by Nasty Gal). And Nadia Napreychikov and Cami James, the founders of Di$count, were not pleased. They have taken to their Facebook and Instagram accounts slamming the retailer with some choice words.
Nasty Gal joins the ranks of Mango and other fast fashion retails, which were all very happy to jump on the most recent bout of Gucci fever. While Nasty Gal (or its supplier) did not recreate an exact Gucci garment style here, it is pretty obvious what it is channeling: Gucci’s hot-selling red hydrangea print, which has made waves on the runway and off since its debut late last year.
Nasty Gal’s copy of Aquazzura’s Wild Thing sandal is a particularly risky one. Given that Aquazzura has filed trade dress infringement lawsuits against Ivanka Trump and Steve Madden for copying and selling this exact style, Nasty Gal might be next.
Nasty Gal took a page from Moschino’s book early last year, copying its Biker bag, a clutch complete with snaps and zippers and the silhouette of a Perfecto jacket. (Yes, it is worth noting that Saint Laurent showed a motorcycle jacket-inspired bag last year, it's Riders Zip bag, a backpack complete with zippers and buckles, but missing the silhouette of a Perfecto).
For his Spring/Summer 2015 collection, Alexander Wang sent a number of so-called sneaker dresses down the runway. Wang repurposed popular tennis shoe designs – like Nike’s Flynits – into womenswear. Case in point: the electric-colored bodycon dresses. From there Nasty Gal created its own blatant – yet arguably completely legal (in the U.S.) – copies.
Not just a copycat itself, Nasty Gal’s suppliers are well known copyists, too. Case in point: Steve Madden and its Dior 2014 runway shoe copies. Nasty Gal was “lucky” enough to land some exclusive colorways of these for its own site.
For Fall/Winter 2014, "Phoebe Philo sent models down the runway at Céline wearing a single large earring made from mixed metals and materials, including tassels, gemstones and antique-looking chains." Shortly thereafter, a rather identical-looking earring popped up for sale on Nasty Gal's website (just the latest in a line of Céline-like accessories the Los Angeles-based retailer has co-opted in the recent past).
Don’t forget this tennis sweater that is a blatant copy of Rag & Bone's popular Spring/Summer 2014 white V-neck - complete with the plunging neckline and all.
Did you love that stripy scallop-hemmed mini-dress that Marc Jacobs showed for Spring/Summer 2013? Nasty Gal liked the pricey designer dress so much that it started selling a dirt-cheap version on its own site, beating Marc Jacobs’ to stores.
For a while there, Nasty Gal was selling t-shirts with some awfully familiar logos on them. The most blatant: its Fancy Bones Tee. CHANEL got wind of the designs, and the company's legal department took action to protect the trademarked logo. A CHANEL spokesperson told The Fashion Law: "CHANEL is writing Nasty Gal a cease and desist letter to stop the infringing sales and we hope that they will comply so that this matter can be resolved without the need to file a lawsuit."