Earlier this week, we told you about the similarity between Brooklyn-based cult design brand, Wowch's cat leggings and those of notoriously controversial retailer Urban Outfitters. After doing some additional research and talking to Wowch founder, Max Cattaneo, it appears that: 1) there is quite a back story here, and 2) we can safely rule out any chance that the similarity between the leggings is a coincidence or the result of independent creation. Cattaneo is absolutely on Urban Outfitters' radar because he used to work with Urban Outfitters. Surprised that Urban Outfitters doesn't practice a bit more loyalty towards its former suppliers? Don't be. Fast fashion retailers are involved in an often questionable business and there's a reason their clothes are so inexpensive.
Here's the backstory: Wowch says the last time he had a business discussion with Urban Outfitters, regarding the stocking of his wares, was probably 2 years ago, and not surprisingly, at that point, Urban basically wanted to buy shirts from Wowch for what it cost him to produce them, and then mark them up nearly four times. So, then, it appears Urban Outfitters did what it does best, as noted by a variety of designers, who have been copied by the less-than-original retailer. When Urban approaches a designer and cannot get him or her to agree to a deal (for whatever reason), Urban Outfitters simply recreates the piece it wanted to designer to supply and when asked about it, denies any involvement with the designer. The latest example of this tactic: Wowch and its cat leggings.
Wowch (the designer) conceived of the cat leggings in 2009, but didn't start producing them until late 2010, early 2011. While it took some time for the cat leggings to catch on (in-part because the company does not have a budget for marketing or advertising), they have become a sought-after item, as indicated by a sold-out holiday collection with FAB.com and a major increase in sales. Also - this isn't the first time Wowch's work has been copied. In 2005, his shark-and-kitten shirt, which was being stocked at Urban Outfitters at the time, was copied and worn by James Franco's character in the movie, Pineapple Express. So, while some say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, we say Urban Outfitters isn't flattering anyone. It is a company that consistently profits from stealing the ideas and designs of emerging and/or independent designers.