2/25/2014

SOS // Getting ripped off sucks

Hey y’all, it’s Jessica from Son of a Sailor. I wanted to take a moment this morning to write a sort of personal blog post, as we discovered that a large American retailer is selling a bracelet that is very very similar to a design we’ve been making since we first began Son of a Sailor almost three years ago.

Copyright has been an ever-present and increasingly common topic amongst designers of all kinds. In my peer group, a group of independent designers starting small businesses that are navigating the seas of large retailers, corporations, and manufacturers, the integrity of our designs is commonly compromised. I am fairly certain that every designer I know has dealt with someone else “designing” something that is almost identical to their own product.

It’s a struggle to figure out what to do in these situations. There are so many factors at hand, and I am always personally reluctant to say that anyone is actually “stealing” or “copying” our designs. But sometimes it’s perfectly clear. 

We had a Sierra design straight ripped off by a Chinese manufacturer who even stole our images! It’s crystal clear to understand what’s happening, and easy for us to be angry and try to rectify the situation. (Although cease & desist letters have yet to be of any help to us at this point.)

When it’s a fellow small designer, it gets really hairy. It’s upsetting to see another small maker that is just taking your designs and ideas and running with them. It’s also a dilemma to me in terms of how to handle those situations. I still don’t know.

But when it’s a large American retailer that’s recreated a design that you have come to be known for, it really creates sense of betrayal. We discovered this morning that American Eagle Outfitters is selling a bracelet that I believe is a clear ripoff of our Pecos Handpainted bracelet. My gut feeling is that their design was taken from ours, and they’re selling it for half the price. 

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Since we began in May 2011 we have created many different designs of the Pecos, which have all been a double stranded leather bracelet with hand-painted geometric designs. This is the version American Eagle is currently selling:

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As a small designer, I’m not totally sure what to do in this situation. I believe that it should be talked about, and I believe that American Eagle should be held accountable—-or at least be made aware that whatever “designer” brought this to the table has brought a design that was created by an Austin husband and wife team that is running a small business that supports 5 employees. That they’re undercutting a small American business by selling this item. That if they liked our design, they should have purchased them from us. We wholesale. Other large retailers have done this, as it’s a model that works.

We will continue to innovate and create and design goods with as much integrity as we can muster. We will continue to have good ideas and bring them to the table. We will continue to try to price our handmade goods at an affordable price point so that more people can support small business and buy handmade goods. We will continue to do our thing.

In the meantime, I hope that people choose to buy from the makers that create unique goods and come up with ideas, and not from the large retailers that stand on these makers’ backs to make a buck.

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