Zara Slammed for Stealing Signature Design from South African Brand

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Appropriation or appreciation? I’d say this is just daylight @maxhosa intellectual property theft by @zara. There’s a big difference between taking inspiration and illegal expropriation. #Maxhosa designed and launched this #Khanyisa cardigan and sox (slide left) range globally 2014. In 2018 @zara shamelessly copied the design as is and put in retail in earlier this month. As a global #African I understand that inspiration is global and no one has universal rights, but theft on the other hand should be universally condemned. We appreciate that Africa’s rich culture is now ‘en vogue’ but not at all costs. But our protected intellectual property rights should be respected as much as we respect that of other global brands. #Maxhosa and all Africans should not take this lying down. If they can do this to a relatively well known brand like @maxhosa you can imagine what they’ve been doing to lesser known designers with little resources or recourse. Everybody in Design and retail knows it’s the foundation of Zara to replicate and sell quickly – and perhaps apologize. Fast fashion straight from the (others’) runway is how there’re fashioned. But it does not mean we all have to accept it. We should all stand up and reject such blatant intellectual property expropriation and theft. #ThebeOnBrands

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A well-known South African brand has been the target of Zara’s latest design-stealing incident, as initially pointed out by an influencer from the nation. And now, the African label is gearing up for a lawsuit.

Thebe Ikalafeng exposed the new Zara Men sock design that he says rips off one from MaXhosa by Laduma. The South African fashion label, described as an “innovative Xhosa-inspired knitwear brand,” launched the Khanyisa cardigan in March 2014 during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Johannesburg. Now, the best-selling item’s design has been duplicated on socks sold at Zara stores locally, in the U.K. and in New York.

“We consulted with Shane Moore and Muhammad Patel from Moore Attorneys, one of Africa’s leading IP law firms who are handling the matter on our behalf,” MaXhosa said in a press release Monday, April 23. “They have since sent a letter to the parent company alerting them of the copyright infringement and our demands. We have taken such steps so as to avoid our works being appropriated and adapted without our consent or permission.

“Copyright infringement is a matter that we take seriously and fully aware of our intellectual property rights,” the statement continued. “We would like to thank the clients who have silently sent us proof of such infringements as they allowed us means to act. The debate as to whether we shall win the case or not remains, we stand by our decision to fight such a case. Thus, we have sent our letter of demand and we await their reply.”

A separate release revealed Maxhosa is set to meet with Zara representatives confidentially the week of May 7. It noted there will be “no new communications on this matter until further notice.”

By April 24, MaXhosa designer Laduma Ngxokolo posted on Instagram that stealing designs is Spain-based Zara’s “business model” and he and his family will return all Zara apparel they own.

“I’ve had a few copyright infringement cases in the past, and won majority of them,” he noted, “but @zara took this one to great extremes. … P.s: they’ve started removing the socks from their global site, Sandton, [South Africa] outlet, etc.”

Indeed, Inditex, Zara’s holding company, told TshisaLIVE Wednesday, April 25 that it has “the utmost respect for individual creativity and takes all claims concerning third party intellectual rights very seriously. As a preventative action, the process to immediately remove this item both from out stores and online was activated at the moment this situation was brought to our attention.

“The company has already started an internal investigation and will be in contact with MaXhosa’s representatives to clarify and resolve the situation as swiftly as possible,” it added.

Even still, social media users have been just as riled up about the scandal as Ikalafeng.

“I’m so shook! 😳🤭😦,” one user said. “Zara straight up jacked MaXhosa’s signature patterns…. like… COPY AND PASTE!! Bathong – WHO DOES THAT???? Shameless!!”

“Zara must remove Maxhosa like socks from its stores!” another tweeted. “A victory for the small guy. I love @MaXhosaByL designs. #MaXhosa @eNCA.”

“That’s Zara’s entire business model,” another less surprised person said, “Not sure why people are surprised. EVERYTHING in store is copy and paste. Of course they were going to take Asian and Africa’s best styles — google and see how frustrated European designers are with the brand.”

And the outrage is warranted, as this is not the first time Zara has come under fire for ripping off designs.

In 2016, Business Insider reported the label was under siege for allegedly stealing designs from independent designer Tuesday Bassen and was also called out for debuting a line similar to Kayne West’s Yeezy brand. And in 2014, Zara was accused of stealing designs from now-defunct British label Sibling; it was under fire for doing the same with New York street designer Patrick Waldo in 2012.

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