Aritzia is being sued by an artist in the United States over hot pink sculptures that have been featured in the Canadian fashion retailer’s window displays across North America this spring.
The artist said the Canadian chain is copying his work with sculptures that are “identical” to the sculptures he’s been creating for more than 40 years.
“I was astounded. Why? Why not contact me? … It was hurtful, quite frankly,” said Richard X. Zawitz, who owns Tangle Creations.
In a lawsuit filed from his home state of California, Zawitz says Aritzia’s window displays are a “significant” infringement of his copyright — online and in real life. He said the popular, mid-priced women’s wear retailer, headquartered in Vancouver, has displayed the sculptures in cities from Vancouver and Toronto to New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
He said he found out about Aritzia’s display from friends earlier this year.
“My phone blew up,” he said in an interview.
“Everybody was texting me from all over the country, including Canada, and said, ‘Wow, your sculptures are in Aritzia. How fantastic. They look beautiful’ … I was astounded, but boy, they look good,” he continued.
“I was on my way to L.A. the next day and I went down to the grove and boy, those sculptures were in the window.”
An Aritzia spokesperson told CBC in a written statement that the retailer is currently reviewing the matter.
“These sculptures were created by Aritzia’s in-house designers who strive to create an everyday luxury, aspirational shopping environment for our clients. Boutique visual displays are seasonal in nature and have been taken down in the normal course,” the spokesperson said.
TikTok of sculpture sees 8.5M views
The sculptures have also gotten attention on TikTok. Some employees filmed themselves trying to assemble the pieces — resembling pink macaroni — and wrangling the sculptures into the window. Some people replying in the comments asked if the sculptures would be available to take home once Aritzia was done with them.
One video has had more than 8.5 million views.
Zawitz’s lawsuit said his fine art Tangle sculptures and miniature toy versions are made of interlocking, curved pieces that can be twisted and bent to customize the pose. He claimed Aritzia’s art consists of similar interlocking pieces and bear the same hot pink, chrome finish as the “palm metallic pink” option sold in his online store.
“The striking similarities between the Infringing Sculptures and the TANGLE Sculptures indicate that [Aritzia] committed their infringing acts deliberately, willfully, and maliciously, without regard to [Zawitz]’s proprietary rights in the TANGLE Copyright Registrations,” read the lawsuit filed this month.
Zawitz said he would’ve been open to collaborating with the retailer or being credited with his name in the window, but they weren’t able to settle the issue out of court.
“We found them rather unwilling and uncompromising. So we had to take this step,” he said.
“As an artist, if you don’t protect what you’ve created … it’s going to get stolen.”
Zawitz said he’s collaborated with the fashion industry before.
Michael Jackson wore a version of the art in L’Uomo Vogue, or Vogue Italia for men, as part of a spread marking the 25th anniversary of his Thriller album in 2007. British fashion label J.W. Anderson partnered with Zawitz to create the metal handles for its Spring 2016 collection.
“They missed a golden opportunity, frankly,” Zawitz said of Aritzia.
The copyright claim has not been proven and Aritzia has not filed a response in court.
Zawitz is seeking up to $30,000 in damages from Aritzia for each instance of alleged copyright infringement.
WATCH | Aritzia sets sights on U.S. fame: