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About 2,500 people have signed a petition in support of NY designer Feral Childe's request for Forever21 to pull a piece from their stores that sports a print cribbed from Childe's collection. The commenters are really angry at Forever 21, and yes, we agree, it's wrong for someone to copy someone else's creative work. This is nothing new—people have been accusing Forever 21 of knocking off designers for years. See this, here, and here for just a few examples.
But something pretty vital that we think has been missing from the whole Forever 21 multi-years-long internet rage-a-thon is this fact: Forever 21 doesn't design or manufacture clothing. Yes, you read that right.
Forever 21 is a retail store that sources and buys pre-designed and pre-manufactured pieces from factories all over the world and then slaps the Forever 21 label on them. There is no Forever 21 design studio, no Forever 21 factory, no Forever 21 covert operative that's scouring fashion shows and making identical $12.80 dresses from digital images sourced from Style.com. The store has buyers, just like so many other stores, that go to suppliers every season to purchase pieces to fill its giant retail locations. So, when a designer rip-off lands on the selling floor at a Forever 21, all the retailer can do is take it off the selling floor and maybe get mad at its supplier for selling them something that made them look bad.
We're no legal experts, but maybe this is why, despite more than 50 lawsuits filed against it by disgruntled designers convinced it's stealing their ideas, Forever 21 has never lost a single copycat case in court.
UPDATE 8-16-2011: We received a comment (below) from a reader stating that Forever 21 does, actually, have a design studio, so we reached out to Forever 21 for clarification. This is the statement they sent us:
It is true most of our items are bought from 3rd party vendors and it is also true that we have a small design team which we are looking to expand to hopefully minimize the amount of product that we purchase therefore greatly decreasing the chances of these hurdles. The item in question (Feral Childe) was purchased from a 3rd party vendor and upon finding out, we promptly removed the item from the shelves and alerted the vendor.· Forever 21 [Official Site]
· Change.org and 2,500 people will fight Forever21 for stolen designs [Refinery29]