The New Affair of the Necklace : Urban Outfitters Twitter Backlash for Copying

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Have you checked out Twitter today to see all the conversations about Urban Outfitters? Big props to one of the Tweeps, @amberkarnes for shining the Twitter spotlight on the global problem of large retailers copying or knocking off  independent designers and then selling the goods as their own creation and reaping the profits while they don’t even pay 1 penny to the original creator via something as simple as a licensing agreement.  That’s called corporate greed in my opinion.   Here’s what happened.  A talented independent designer, Stevie  Koerner of Esty shop Tru.Che had been designing and selling necklaces with US states on them as pendants. The pendants were very successful it seems, and retailer Urban Outfitters rendered one that seemed, er, let me just say, very, very similar.  The pictures don’t lie. See for yourself.

Take a look at  one of Stevie’s “I Heart NY” necklaces via The My Aim is True Blog.

I heart NY Necklace

And Urban Outfitters’ ripoff “I Heart ____” necklace:

Urban Outfitters Ripoff Design

From Stevie’s tumblr post:

“My heart sank a little bit. The World/United States of Love line that I created is one of the reasons that I was able to quit my full-time job. They even stole the item name as well as some of my copy.”

Thank goodness Stevie Koerner saw the copy, and blogged about it.  When you’re being robbed, it’s a good thing to be able to let people know, and social media makes this possible on a grand scale.  Following Stevie’s post, the copy cat necklace by Urban began to be shared.  From what I have read, it was first shared by a reader on Facebook, and then most effectively by Amber on her Twitter feeds. Amber, I applaud you for waging this Twitter intervention!  To me, the mass copying is one of the saddest things coming out of the recession.  As the designers struggle, and sometimes can’t mass produce things at a low costs, bigger chains come in and take their designs, outsource them and mass produce them for a low cost.   But they rarely work with the designers to cut them in on the deal, and give them a piece of the action.  How petty is that? Urban has a history of doing a little knocking off. Check out the article from the Village Voice on some of their past practices. Urban is not alone in this practice, they are just the ones that got caught today.   Coach and DVF have both raised issues with Target in the past.

The copycat syndrome has been happening for ages. It happens to blogs.  My blog has been knocked off repeatedly.  I know other bloggers who have had their pictures and copy taken.   And as Amber said in her original tweet on the Urban Outfitters, “That is not OK.”   My hope today is that Urban Outfitters offers designer Stevie a big fat settlement agreement.  Even Miley Cryus is now tweeting on this one.  My recommendation to Urban, put this wrong right and quick. You have the means.   Do the right thing.


Since 2008, Mary Hall has been the author of The Recessionista Blog, which is read by thousands of regular readers in over 160 countries. An internationally recognized expert on the art of the living the good life for less, she has been a commentator on local, national, and international radio and TV shows. Her advice has been featured in over 2,000 media outlets, including The New York Times, Reuters, Life & Style magazine, ABC News, NBC News and now The Huffington Post, among many others.

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