H&M often takes inspiration from the major runway collections. But the retailer runs into hot water when it gets "inspired" by smaller brands, such as Swedish designer and illustrator Camilla Lundsten.
Lundsten, the creator of a children’s book series about Littlephant, which has since spun into a clothing line, found a kids outfit at H&M that looked remarkably similar to her own Littlephant clothes -- a little too similar.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Lundsten reached out to H&M to address the alleged ripoff, but had trouble getting a response from the store. So she took to Instagram, posting the following photo of her own pieces alongside H&M's:
After several days, she finally heard back. "They apologized and said that the inspiration had come too close to the original. And they said they'd withdraw the collection immediately," Lundsten told the Wall Street Journal. But that doesn't make up for the time the clothing was sitting on the shelves. "They've been selling this collection for a month, I'm sure they've made good money on this," she said. "I you take somebody’s design, especially a small designer like myself you’re supposed to get royalties."
That's the argument made by Tori LaConsay, another artist who saw her original work pop up at H&M. Back in January 2012, LaConsay realized that two cutesy graphics she originally designed for a neighborhood billboard in Atlanta -- one reading "You Look Nice Today" and another one with "I'm So Happy You're Here" -- were being emblazoned on shirts, bags and doormats at H&M. At first H&M denied ripping off her work, but eventually relented and agreed to donate $3,000 to organizations in the Atlanta area where LaConsay's original designs had hung.
And as recently as this past August, photographer Estevan Oriol called out H&M for using his 1995 photograph, "L.A. Fingers," on women's tops without his permission -- and certainly without paying him royalties. So he filed a suit asking for unspecified damages.
H&M has pulled the recent children's clothing in question, but you wonder when it will really learn. Somehow, we doubt this is the last tiff between an artist and the retail giant we'll be seeing.