From the “That’s A First” files: H&M apologizes for infringing on artist’s design

December 13, 2013

Littlephant_copyed by H&M_NewsletterIt sounds like a small Swedish designer has accomplished what many much larger design firms haven’t managed so far: wrangling an apology out of H&M for a copycat design.

H&M is as known for its ultra-cheap and trendy clothing as it is for liberally borrowing concepts from other designers; no sooner do models get to the end of the catwalk than H&M has cranked out its own version of a garment. The polite term for this is “fast fashion;” the less-polite term is “shameless imitation.”

Over the years, various designers have complained to little effect about H&M’s penchant for lifting “inspiration” from others. In fact, some designers, like Versace, decided to take an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em approach” and collaborate with H&M – the thinking being, apparently, that they might as well make a little money, since the ripping off is going to happen anyway.

Keep that in mind as you hear about Swedish designer Camilla Lundsten, who saw an H&M outfit that she felt copied one featuring concepts from her series of children’s books. Even with H&M’s long history of “borrowing” from other designers and largely getting away with it, she was so dismayed she decided to do something about it.

She tried to contact the company, but after her complaints got no traction, she posted a side-by-side comparison on Instagram and emailed the CEO.

That seemed to do the trick. H&M pulled the clothing and sort-of apologized. What it didn’t do was explain how the imitation happened in the first place. That appears to be common for the company.

I find H&M’s almost delusional brazenness to be weirdly interesting. The company has been accused of copying  many times (scroll to the bottom of this article to see some of its most notable imitations) and routinely denies doing anything untoward. Had I caught Lundsten’s story at the point where she had discovered the imitation but hadn’t heard back from H&M, I would have assumed she was out of luck. I’m glad I was wrong.