Jeremy Scott, the Los Angeles-based designer who moonlights as the creative director of Italian design house, Moschino, in addition to overseeing his eponymous label, which turned 20 this fall, is not a designer that is interested in subtlety. Whether it be controversial footwear (remember the shackle sneakers he created for adidas?) or frequently familiar-looking garments (the Moschino graffiti dress comes to mind) and the lawsuits that come hand-in-hand with such alleged copying, Scott tends to make waves.
Hardly a stranger to such litigation, you may recall that Scott was sued several years ago on the heels of showing his eponymous Fall/Winter 2013 collection in New York, a suit he quietly settled out of court, agreeing not to "produce or distribute" the collection and to pay Jimbo Phillips - the graphic artist whose work he allegedly copied - an undisclosed sum for what Phillips claims amounted to copyright infringement.
This was followed by another copyright infringement suit - one that Los Angeles-based graffiti artist Joseph Tierney, who is also known as “Rime,” filed against Scott and Moschino, alleging that they “inexplicably placed [his] art on their highest-profile apparel without his knowledge or consent.” Moreover, Tierney claimed that not only did Scott allegedly copy his work, but the designer also superimposed the Moschino and Jeremy Scott brand names in spray-paint style on the garments as if it was part of the original work. This gives rise to copyright infringement issues, per Tierney’s complaint, as well as ones of trademark infringement and false designation of origin.
That suit also ultimately settled out of court, but only after Moschino attempted to argue that graffiti should not be subject to copyright protections.
Lawsuits in the fashion industry, particularly intellectual property ones (which can be complex and technical and arguably a bit dull, as a result), are of little interest to the vast majority of people – including many that work in the fashion industry and that are consumers of high fashion. This is good news for Jeremy Scott because it means that the lawsuits in which he is involved are likely going unnoticed for the most part. With this in mind, is might be safe to say, then, that Scott is walking away untarnished but for a sizeable sum of money (think: the settlement amount and his legal fees).
Scott is known for building his brand (and now Moschino, too) on imitation in some form or another. It was The Simpsons’s and Lisa Frank imagery for Fall 2012. Shrek for Spring/Summer 2015. And who could forget his ode to fast food and SpongeBob for Moschino? The latter collection utilized clear references to a number of brands’ trademarks (think: McDonald’s, Hershey’s, Windex, even Chanel) – albeit with a bit of a Moschino twist. The Italian design house has been ruffling feathers since its Franco Moschino days.
In fact, Chanel threatened suit upon the brand’s founder when he spoofed their perfume on a t-shirt. Or how about his aforementioned Fall/Winter 2013 collection, in which Scott reportedly took a bit too much copyrighted material from Jimbo Phillips and plastered it all over his garments and accessories.
So, how is Scott, who is being slapped with lawsuits alleging that he copied, supposed to fare in such an industry? Well, if we look around, he seems to be doing just fine. He has a gaggle of die-hard celebrity fans that includes Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Rihanna, A$AP Rocky, and more. He was invited by MTV to recreate its Video Music Award statues. And don't forget the recently released film that not only chronicles but also celebrates his rise to fame as a fashion designer.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery – in theory – and since much of what we see in fashion is a reinterpretation of something that has already been done before and copyright law does not extend protection to ideas, but only to the unique expression of those ideas, there is a lot of room for inspiration (which is certainly how I would categorize the paper doll idea).
But at the end of the day, no one really likes being copied. This is the exact reason why so many US-based designers rallied with the Council of Fashion Designers of America for a number of years to push for copyright protection for their designs. You may recall that Lazaro Hernandez, half of the Proenza Schouler design duo, testified before Congress on behalf of one iteration of the proposed fashion copyright legislation some time ago.
CFDA President Diane Von Furstenberg, who rose to fame in the 1970’s thanks to her iconic wrap dress design, was also a vocal supporter of the bill. The bill made sense in theory (if we ignore its many significant flaws) because fashion is an industry that is based on creativity, originality and innovation (or at least it is proclaims to be), and we want to protect the original creations of the designers. It is also the reason the CFDA champions original design with its “Can’t Fake Fashion” initiative. (It is worth noting that Scott is not a member of the NYC-based trade organization, which boasts a roster of the US’s most esteemed designers).
Notwithstanding the foregoing, you would think that eventually, Scott’s alleged copycat ways would come full circle and the industry would not be as welcoming of a individual (or better yet, a team of individuals), that is being accused of employing the same tactics as high street copiers, no?