Forever 21 has hit a new low. The Los Angeles-based fast fashion giant, which is well known for ripping off the works of everyone from emerging designers to Kanye West and Puma – has seemingly taken to copying garments created for the purpose of raising awareness about social issues, including women’s rights. According to WORD, a Los Angeles-based social media and branding agency, Forever 21 has taken a bit too much inspiration from its Creator Shirt (above, left).
The shirt at issue is WORD's $25 Creator Shirt. According to the company, the t-shirt is “WORD's contribution towards the fight for better women's healthcare in the United States and abroad. Women are creators, givers of life. The well-being of a woman's body should be of the utmost importance.” Word goes on to note in the t-shirt's description, “The shirt features the word WOMAN in 9 different languages to represent our belief that feminism and human rights should be intersectional. Women from all races, cultures, religions & economic backgrounds deserve access to safe medical care.”
The difference between Forever 21’s version and Word’s? A few changed fonts, a different order, cut-off sleeves, and also, the fast fashion giant “removed the Swahili, Arabic, Hebrew [and] Japanese,” per Word.
According to Jezebel, “Angela Carrasco and Zoila Darton, founders and partners of WORD, first created their t-shirt to raise donations for Planned Parenthood, with 25 percent of each sale going to the organization.”
Carrasco told Jezebel that she “has reached out to Forever 21 through social media and has not received a response yet, she also says that WORD may look into their legal options.” The brand appears to have pulled the t-shirt, but Darton and Carrasco are urging Forever 21 to donate all of its profits it made from any sales of the tee to Planned Parenthood.
This is not the first time a activist-inspired t-shirt has been copied. In fact, this appears to be something of a budding trend. Last month, 18-year-old Kayla Robinson came under fire after Frank Ocean wore one of her designs on stage at New York’s Panorama Festival. What seemed like it was shaping up to be a truly massive break for Robinson’s small brand, Green Box Shop - which received thousands of orders for the t-shirt that Ocean wore - turned out to be a nightmare with some very real legal implications.
During the Panorama show, Ocean wore a T-shirt that read, “Why be racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic when you could just be quiet?” The phrase, it turns out, was not original to Robinson, but actually came from one of 18-year-old Brandon Male’s tweets dated August 8, 2015, who wanted to be credited and compensated for the alleged copyright infringement.
Before that, model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne did not make any new friends with her attempt to use fashion for a good cause. Delevingne was called out for allegedly "stealing" the design of a sweatshirt from Los Angeles-based designer, Rachel Berks, who heads up design label, Otherwild.
According to Berks, Delevingne stole the design of a sweatshirt that reads, “The Future Is Female,” from her. Delevingne took to her Instagram account to share the following with her 23.4 million followers: “THE FUTURE IS FEMALE. A lot of you have been asking for one of these – so I decided to put them up for sale, with proceeds going to Girl Up!”
UPDATED (SEPTEMBER 18, 2017): Forever 21 provided with the following statement to Teen Vogue: "The shirt in question was bought from a third party source. As soon as Forever 21 was alerted to the issue, we respectfully removed it from our website. Because this product did not have trademark or IP protections, there were no red flags raised at the time of purchase."