Is Versace a Copycat?

April 9th, 2015

Rumour has it that Versace is soon to be at the wrong end of a legal dispute following allegations that they have copied the t-shirt designs of British born, Los Angeles based, artist, Kesh.

Kesh teamed up with American Apparel back in 2013 to design the ‘Face Le New’ t-shirt (as displayed on the left of the image), retailed at $30. The designs were based on Kesh’s own artwork from her first solo show and were created from images of her own face. You may recognise the design as that worn by celebrities including Jessie J, Cara Delevingne and Jourdan Dunn.

Kesh alleges on her Instagram page that Versace’s ‘Medusa cotton-jersey t-shirt’ (as displayed on the right, above) is a copycat. The Versace t-shirt, which retails at $651 and is available on the Selfridges website, has already sold out in 3 sizes; a fact which Kesh has called “madness”.

However, Fashionista finds it difficult to see what claim Kesh could bring against Versace in the UK. Kesh’s t-shirt features an abstract black and white face with curved lips. While Versace’s version also encompasses a similar black and white abstract face,  it has more angular features and the face is surrounded by a mosaic print, which may be recognised as an abstract version of Versace’s Medusa logo. Arguably, it does not appear that a substantial part of Kesh’s design has been copied by Versace. Fashionista considers that it would also be difficult to bring a claim for passing off against Versace in the UK, as Kesh is not widely known in the UK and, therefore, it will be difficult to demonstrate the requisite goodwill in Kesh’s t-shirt design. In addition, Fashionista is doubtful that anyone would confuse Versace’s designer t-shirt (particular with its high price tag) with Kesh’s high-street counterpart, especially as the former features an abstract version of Versace’s logo.

It has been reported that Kesh may bring proceedings against Versace in the US and Fashionista has heard that Kesh has already instructed legal counsel. But will Kesh be able to show that the designs are “substantially similar”? Tricky!

In light of the negative publicity resulting from the alleged copying, Fashionista would not be surprised if this matter was resolved out of court with a promise from Versace to stop using the abstract Medusa design.

By: Natalie Coan
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