H&M has landed itself in hot water yet again! The Swedish retail giant was forced to apologise for stealing a design from Swedish children’s book designer Camilla Lundsten. The author, who created a children’s book series about Littlephant, a red elephant, last year collaborated with another Swedish retailer, Lindex, to create a clothing line based on her characters. But, last month, Lundsten discovered that H&M was selling near identical t-shirts to those in her collection!
“On Friday I went into H&M’s online store and discovered a dress with a rabbit peeking out of the pocket with accompanying harlequin tights. I looked at H&M online stores in other countries and saw the same collection.” said Lundsten.
Although she immediately contacted H&M about the infringement, they only pulled the clothing after being named and shamed on social media and in the press. As she was unable to reach anyone at H&M, she put the pictures on Instagram which reportedly received about 1,400 likes in just a few hours. The story then caught the attention of Swedish tabloids and the story was publicised throughout the country.
H&M have now pulled the clothing and are reportedly reviewing the issue internally. However despite receiving an apology, Lundsten did not receive any compensation. “They’ve been selling this collection for a month, I’m sure they’ve made good money on this – you take somebody’s design, especially a small designer like myself you’re supposed to get royalties” she said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
It’s not the first time a company has been ‘shamed’ into removing products from their shop floors via social media sites. Last year, jewellery design duo Tatty Devine discovered near identical pieces of jewellery to their designs on sale in high street giant, Claire’s Accessories. When Claire’s ignored their complaints, Tatty Devine posted their grievances on their blog. Before long the story had gone viral and was picked up by mainstream media and national newspapers. Amidst the storm of negative media, Claire’s promptly removed the designs.
But is this the answer? Surely naming and shaming organisations on social media is a last resort. It doesn’t address the financial and emotional strains suffered by the designers who find themselves the victims of copying. The issue can be more easily resolved if organisations agree to pay for the designs that they use in the first place. Many small designers would be happy to discuss the possibility of licensing a design but don’t get the opportunity – their designs are taken and copied without their knowledge.
Let’s hope fast fashion retailers take note and pay for the designs that they use!