It was hard to miss Taylor Swift out in New York last week in her hot pink Balenciaga sweatshirt, which references the omnipresent NY-themed merchandise commonly sold from street vendors in the city. The star obviously took a shine to the brazen design (which cost approx. $1286) but now, Balenciaga is under scrutiny for taking inspiration perhaps a little too literally with a handbag from the same collection.
The label is being sued for copyright infringement over its New York Bazaar Shopper Tote by one of said souvenir vendors, City Merchandise inc, which alleges the “total concept and feel” of the Balenciaga shopper is “virtually indistinguishable” from a bag of its own design. (According to sources, the souvenir option is priced at around US$20, but the designer version will set you back approx. $2045.) The plaintiff is seeking injunctive relief and damages in the case filed against Balenciaga America.
It’s not the first time the high-end brand’s designer Demna Gvasalia has looked to the streets for inspiration. In 2016, under his label Vetements, he produced the now-cult DHL T-Shirts featuring the shipping company’s iconic logo, which became instant street style must-haves after hitting the runway. It’s this high-meets-low, irony-fuelled approach that has arguably made his collections for both Vetements and Balenciaga so buzzy.
However this tactic has also given fuel to the plaintiff’s argument - in the law suit, City Merchandise references the designer’s history of “appropriating” certain garments and accessories, something Gvasalia has owned up to in previous interviews.
“Based upon its dubious reputation in the fashion industry for appropriating the work of others, as well as public statements attributed to Mr Gvasalia, it should not be surprising that Defendant has copied Plaintiffs Design, in connection with the infringing Product and is passing it off as its own,” the statement reads.