“I remember Marvin Gaye used to sing to me. He had me feeling like black was the thing to be” – Tupac Shakur
Turns out – being black is the thing to be. From Miley Cyrus’ personal crusade to make twerking mainstream to dozens of other ethnicites paying homage to shapely bodies that most black women are just born with. It looks like the latest bit of cultural hijacking has come to the world of makeup and retail.
Another Instance of Design Sampling
Just recently, PluggedNYC called out Kylie Jenner’s new camouflage collection that offers crop tops, swimwear, hats, and more. The only problem – it looks a lot like the designs offered by PluggedNYC. In fact, the company claims that Jenner purchased a few items from their collection and to their surprise, featured items that look incredibly similar to their own and PluggedNYC is none too pleased. Now clearly we can all thank the U.S. military for creating camouflage, although they didn’t do it so we could all wear a two piece camo bikini while chilling at the beach, but it’s hard to deny that Kylie’s new collection looks awful familiar – I’ll let you be the judge (Kylie’s collection on the left; PluggedNYC on the right).
Even Kylie’s big sister, Khloe Kardashian, is getting in on the action with new accusations that her Good American brand copied its bedazzled bodysuit from designer Destiney Bleu. Khloe allegedly purchased a few items from Bleu, only to release a similar-looking bodysuit for Good American’s latest collection.
Who’s Profiting from Black Culture and Creativity?
While some may argue that popular designs are frequently copied and re-purposed for the masses — is this a case of successful white women profiting off of black culture and creativity? Bleu’s defense attorney seems to think so — “There is also something deeply uncomfortable about someone with Khloé’s wealth and power appropriating designs and fashion directly from a black woman with a small business without crediting her, making cheap knockoffs, and then attempting to threaten her into silence.” It’s not just uncomfortable, it’s also deeply troubling. Black women-owned businesses often lack the resources of those stealing their designs and so they’re left receiving zero credit for the very design knock-offs they’ve influenced. More importantly, they’re left with far less revenue for their efforts.
What’s the Alternative?
Legally, there’s not much up-and-coming designers can do. Copyright infringement is really hard to prove in an industry where knock-offs exist around every corner. And celebrities sampling indie designers and makeup artists happens not because they’re bad people, but simply because they’re not designers and must depend on more talented individuals to bring their brands to life. Black women-owned businesses on Instagram should keep this in mind when posting their latest designs and be sure to bring to the world’s attention that it’s them, not celebrities like Kylie Jenner, that deserves the praise for their amazing style and undeniable talent.