Troemel's work (left) & a look from Gazinskaya's SS18 collection (right)

Troemel’s work (left) & a look from Gazinskaya’s SS18 collection (right)

Russian designer – and street style star – Vika Gazinskaya has allegedly taken a bit too much inspiration for her Spring/Summer 2018 collection from the work of artist Brad Troemel. New York-based Troemel took to his Instagram on Monday to share side-by-side photos of his work, which he publicly showed at the Tomorrow Gallery in New York in November 2016, and the alleged copies from Gazinskaya’s collection, which debuted in Paris last week during the season’s Resort shows.

According to Troemel, Gazinskaya used original artwork from his “Freecaching” exhibition “without permission, acknowledgement, or arrangement,” namely, a print consisting of grids of colored, white, and numbered blocks, as well as blocks containing snippets of text. 

Troemel says he discovered the copied designs thanks to Vogue’s review of Gazinskaya’s S/S 2018 collection, in which Gazinskaya cites “vintage dresses, choreographer William Forsythe, Katharine Hepburn … [and] thrift-store finds on trips to London and L.A.” as inspiration. Not on the list: Troemel or his work. 

“It’s a swatch-by-swatch copy from the upper left black to the lower left yellow to the text breaks between the green and yellow to the text break between the pink to the blue,” Troemel wrote in an Instagram comment. “There’s really no room left for coincidence.”

Representatives for Gazinskaya have not commented on the brewing controversy but the designer, herself, has taken to commenting on some of Troemel’s Instagram posts, writing in response to claims of copying (and comments noting that even the order of the colored blocks is identical on Gazinskaya’s dress), “Actually, it is too obvious to ‘hide’ it. So, it is an inspiration. And I can use art in my clothes as much as I want.” Another comment from Gazinskaya reads, “I wrote u that I had no idea who u are and never hided the picture which inspired me.”

She also commented: “I wrote u, saying that we will add the ‘inspiration’ being u. Since now I figured out your name. But u prefers to stay angry – I thought artists are more kind and spiritual.”

But the back-and-forth did not end there. According to a subsequent Instagram post from Troemel, he has been slapped with a cease and desist letter from Gazinskaya’s camp, accusing him of defamation. The letter states, “It has come to my attention that you are disparaging my client on the Internet with false claims of ‘theft’ regarding my client’s decision to use the idea of multicolored blocks and letters (which us not protectable) and express it in a way that you claim is a ‘direct copy’ of your work but most certainly is not.”

It continues on to state, “Using inspiration from existing material is presumably what you did with your Rubik’s cube-looking art, and indeed your art in general has been reported (including in The New Yorker) as being based on preexisting material. In any event, my client’s designs not violate your art any more than your art violates the rights in 80’s-inspired grid patterns that were all the rage when I was a kid.”

In response, Troemel has enlisted legal counsel of his own, and posted the following comment on Instagram, “You are an international fashion brand selling goods that are direct copies of my work for thousands of dollars. I’m a working artist trying to figure out how to pay my rent next month. This is not a horizontal relationship of influence.” 

He further stated, “The world doesn’t need more frivolous legal defenses or stolen fashion lines but some people do need protection and clothes so why not donate the money you would’ve spent suing me and the money you’ll end up making from my work on your dresses to a good charity? How does the American Refugee Committee sound? Charitywatch.org gives them an A+. Whadya say?”