Copy Cat Forever 21 Steals Speckles the Loss Cat Concept from Atlanta Artist R.Land

It looks like Retail giant Forever 21 is at it again.

I kept hearing about Forever21, and so I thought I’d check out the site.
Although I never purchased anything, from time to time I’d check out their new inventory. On my second or third time there, I saw a shirt that said “Lost Cat” and immediately I thought something didn’t look right. It looked almost exactly like my “Loss Cat” t-shirt by Atlanta based multimedia artist R. Land (which brought “Speckles the loss cat” to street art cult status), but there were slight alterations. The concept was exactly the same, the font was the same, and the copy was from a poster I’d seen on one of R. Lands facebook pages. I was totally confused. I contacted the artist and discovered that the Forever21 “Lost Cat” shirt had never been authorized and was a knock off of the original from 2001. I had heard stories of the big retail giants ripping off designs from sites like Etsy, but I guess I didn’t realize how blatant it was! Turns out upon further investigation this is nothing new for Forever21 with almost 60 copyright infringement lawsuits filed against them in the past three years by designers including Diane Von Furstenburg, Anna Sui and Gwen Stefani. I was shocked!

The problem of artists (commercial or otherwise) getting ripped off by retail giants is growing. Artists need to be made aware that unless they protect themselves legally in this predatory economy, they are vulnerable to attack by culture vultures with big gun lawyers. Why should the term “buyer beware” only apply to the consumer and not the big corporate giants? Some of the biggest ones are not showing due diligence in researching and/or ethical judgment in their buying habits. They hide behind buying entities (LLCs within LLCs) to defer the blame. Interestingly enough, the owners of Forever 21 are “christian” and they print the bible verse John 3:16 on the bottom of their bags. Apparently, they don’t spend money on advertising. Instead they spend money to settle out of infringement cases in court. It’s their strategy.

Forever 21 has also sued a blogger who was complaining about these predatory business practices for “brand infringement and dilution.”

It brings to mind the question: At what point does a creative entity become it’s own thing and no longer a copy? If something is just different enough, it can pass on it’s own sometimes. An interesting debate. The threshold varies for a lot of people. In this case, I think it’s pretty obvious. . . I think it’s a timely story that hits a nerve with a lot of creative people.

Here is a screenshot of the unauthorized product being offering (it looks like the link is inactive / they may have taken it down now):

Forever 21 copy cat version

36 comments

  • If it were just the mere concept, I wouldn’t really agree with this. Conceptually, the lost cat thing has been done many, many times. In fact I did it several years ago at some train stations in New York. To this day I still get calls from the fake phone number I set up for the whole thing. Because of that, the ownership of the idea really could be debated.

    Unfortunately, these dopes stole pretty much the whole thing, copy and paste style. Inexcusable. It would have taken very little effort to modify it to the point where they could claim ignorance, but they didn’t even bother to do that.

  • If you’re tired of getting phone calls you could port the number to Twilio and then greet your callers with a nice recording or a game instead :)

  • Emily,
    R.Land has been selling this shirt for over 10 years, but I’m sure you did it first being in New York and all. All us Southern Artists are just playing catchup. I’m sure he stole the idea from your smug ass.

  • wow, laffo has some serious insecurity issues.

  • He lost the war.

  • NY is such a piece of shit

    R.Land did this first, not 10th or 2nd…first. Get over yourself NY.

  • The Sheep and Lion

    Laffo is right. R. Land has been lauded for his pioneering ways in street art. Her’s was smug comment.

  • Brian Burgess

    I heard that RLand was originally from the U.K. and moved to the states about 19 years ago.

  • Oh I heard (in this thread) that “Emily” is from NY and is really cool and did this like forever ago…

  • Laffo, I’m from Atlanta but I am so sick of hearing ATL artists whining about being passed over their NYC counterparts. I mean somebody has got to put an end to this shit. If you go to NYC you’ll soon see that more NYC artist get more exposure simply because there are so many more of them. You can’t throw a rock without hitting four artists in NYC and Atlanta has nowhere even close to the sheer size of NYCs unique arts community. Infact really no other city in the world can.

    Emily obviously had no intention of diminishing R. Lands originality and was actually agreed with the article completely, if you even read that far without coming out of left field with a haymaker (that completely missed the ring let alone the opponent). Emily, is right; the lost cat thing has been done before, like everything that everybody has done or ever will do #quantum physics bitch, but that doesn’t make it any less great. Unfortunately for you it doesn’t you any better of an artist though so you’ll probably keep getting passed over for mediocre ‘NYC artists’ until you have blamed everybody in the world but yourself. ATL forever, HO

  • “G” doesn’t “get it”.

  • What a shame that this comment thread has been derailed.. the point is that Forever21 is scum. I mean, look how brazen they’ve gotten:

    http://twitter.com/#!/Forever2l/status/88373951952207874

  • F21 is absolutely appalling. They steal constantly with zero regard for the artists they take from.

  • drz, you do realize that link you posted was to a fake Forever21 account right?

  • the controversy is whether it is an original design or not. all artists bite off history, the past, icons, myth, legend, etc.

    and even though picasso is hailed as a genius (he was a huge misogynist) – what was his motto? good artists borrow – great artists steal? meh.

    that being said – it does hurt/suck/saddens when a giant company, who has enough resources and money to NOT do it – steals something that was made from the heart, and soul of an artist. this is blatant theft and lacking in originality from a cookie cutter clothing store. it’s copied WORD FOR WORD. wow!

    urban outfitters have been known to do the same. http://consumerist.com/2011/05/urban-outfitters-jewelry-identical-to-independent-designers-line.html

    gap, old navy, they do it too. etsy and flickr are supposed to be for the DIY, small business person like myself. instead – these other companies who can’t think of anything better to do – look to these sources for cheap ways to make money while the local artist suffers.

    sad.

    oh – i was born and raised in ny, been living in atl for over 10 years. whatevs.

  • That’s right I’m insecure Anonymous 1, a great psychological workup in one post. Bravo.
    Anonymous 2 missed the point and as just as I was poking fun at in my original post, went for a Civil War joke.

    The first commenter, Emily, couldn’t help herself and had to say, “Conceptually, the lost cat thing has been done many, many times. In fact I did it several years ago at some train stations in New York.”
    She negated the fact that R.Land did in fact do this BEFORE her, with THIS PIECE being featured in FOUND 10 years ago, only after being sold for years before that. Your ignorance of the history behind the piece doesn’t excuse your ignorance – though I know it’s more convenient for you.

    At no point “G” did I insinuate “ATL artists whining about being passed over their NYC counterparts.” I have worked and work in both towns, had you had any knowledge of who I was you’d know that isn’t an issue for me. Again your willingness to make this NYC vs Atlanta is misplaced. I used something called SARCASM because “Emily” had to justify her smug attitude with “at some train stations in New York.” I guess her career vandalizing train stations in New York somehow excuses her from making broad statements and taking credit for things she knows nothing about.

    To be crystal clear to you G, I loathe fucking whining artists whether they be from NYC, Atlanta or East Twatsburg. What I would do, and that you don’t seem to have the capacity to understand, is that I will set someone straight if they are uninformed of the parties and history involved.

    That goes for you too.

  • Forever21 sucks. Sweat shops and stolen concepts. Yet millions still shop and support these so called “christians”. Typical

  • Just to make a point, you’re all trolling, and it’s kind of annoying. How quickly this got off topic. All artists are smug. The proof is in the pudding. The tone of these comments says it all. I shouldn’t have to explain. It was smug for Emily to _have_ to mention the fact that _she_ is an artist and used a similar design. Sure. Bottom line, though: Laffo, you did miss the point. You’re accusing her of some sort of claim of originality of _this design._ That she is “taking credit for things she knows nothing about.” She absolutely didn’t. The concept of the lost cat _has_ been done many times, as she has said. And I’m pretty sure that she’s not lying when she said she’s used that concept in her own artwork. I don’t see why not. I also didn’t see her say she’s used this exact format. I doubt she used the same font, same picture, and description, but why would you doubt she didn’t do it from her own imagination, and how do you get that she claims originality of the concept, when she says explicitly that it’s an often used one?

    Her point was that _if_ F21 made a T-Shirt of a lost cat, with a different picture, maybe slightly different style, then she would say “it’s not a rip-off, it’s similar.” But she’s agreeing that it is clearly a rip-off, because it made _no_ attempt at even faking originality. She’s, in fact, justifying the little mission thing at the right of the blog: “but keep in mind that there is a fine line between a rip-off and similarity of ideas.”

    But everybody had to (smugly) bring up their artist cred (Emily included) to justify bickering like little kids. Ugh.

    We can all agree that no matter who has done a Lost Cat theme in their artwork, coincidentally or otherwise, that F21 so blatantly and wrongly stole an idea without giving credit, and that’s bullshit.

  • Pickles and cheese is great on the back of a mule.

  • Ronnie is originally from jacksonville and most of his family is still here. He’s been doing loss cat for years since the 90′s as paintings/prints (I have one) and moved over to tshirts in 2001. He’s in the middle of a lawsuit now. F21 is gonna get it.

  • I’m pretty sure the first ancient Egyptian who lost a domesticated cat and depicted it (and a reward if found) on a hieroglyph was the originator of the “Lost Cat” motif.

  • And maybe no one called so he made a LOT of states and images. And then to show he had the money for the reward he decorated the statues with gold. In order to go BTL and ATL with the campaign he then began to put his hieroglyphs, statues and drawings besides the dead so they could take it with them and ask fellow dead Egyptians if they had seen his cat. He even developed a specific reader model inside his target audience.. (ABC-pharaohs & such)

  • As a fellow Atlanta artist I’m just appalled by this story. I’ve shared, tweeted and spread the word. I really want this company to suffer for stealing the art of hard working local artists. If someone had stolen art FROM their tshirts you’d better believe they’d sue immediately. I’m so disgusted and I’m going to be loud about it!

  • Companies do this kind of thing because they know it will cost them about the same amount to settle the law suits as it would just to pay lawyers to go obtain the rights etc. and that’s if the artist even finds out or does anything, but with the added perk of being on tons of blogs and websites and generating tons of buzz for everyone involved.

    How many shirts do you think R. Land has sold because of this blog post and all the other email, Facebook, and whisper chains spawned by the controversy.

    How many shirts has Forever 21 sold to 14 year olds that don’t give a shit who made it?

    This is all a fucking joke and you are the butts of it.

  • Pingback: Where’s the line for copy and inspiration? « Thrifty Threads

  • What you all are forgetting is that the shlubs that are tasked with “designing” these shirts are probably fresh-outta-college kids that have to produce 80 designs a week, so they troll for cool artwork that has a low chance of being discovered because the artists they rip off do not shop at these giant retailers. That part makes me even more angry. In my opinion they are even more to blame than the larger machine that’s ultimately banking on the theft.

  • Pingback: Stole Cat | Atlanta Metblogs

  • Let’s not forget about F21′s lawsuit against this blog that makes fun of them. I HEREBY INVOKE: STREISAND EFFECT: http://wtforever21.com/

  • lol F21 is as bad as Audrey Kitching tbh

  • Loss Cat is a very unique thing and has caught on in ATL in a unique way. People know what Loss Cat is. No one else can claim it, especially NY hipstaz.

  • So who made the image that appeared in Found Magazine in like 2003 or 4? i could look when i get home with who is credited for mailing it in. it that exact image and was said to be found on the street as a real missing poster. I thought it was weird when urban outfitters released the same image couple years later. and now i don’t even know who these new cats are your talking about ( no phun intended)

  • Get ready known fraud Audrey Kitching is about to make the SAME SHIRT!

  • It’s funny, too, because Forever 21 is a Christian store. Thou shalt not steal… unless it’ll sell.

  • This design is steller! You definitely know how to keep a reader amused. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Great job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool! Miss hair feathers

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