Local artist Susie Ghahremani has done well with her Boygirlparty brand of merchandise. She’s developed a base of loyal customers who seemingly can’t get enough of cutesy animal characters that adorn everything from baby clothes to stationary. Still, while she appreciates the attention, she claims that some might have liked her work a little too much.
“I asked my supporters around the country to see if they could find this pin and send me photos,” says Ghahremani, referring to her “Bowtie Cat” enamel pin, which she claims was illegally copied and reproduced by the Francesca’s chain of fashion stores. “We’re talking about a store that’s in almost every mall. The more photos I received, the more I recognized other artists and I immediately got in touch with them.”
Ghahremani claims that Francesca’s “ripped off” more than 20 independent artist designs. She posted a photo-grid-type, side-by-side compilation of the original designs and the Francesca’s version and the similarities are, indeed, striking both in design, scale and color.
“Once you see those side-by-side comparisons you realize the scale of the infringement,” says Ghahremani, who copyrights all her designs. “It shows it’s been a chronic issue with this company.”
CityBeat attempted to contact Erik Lautier, Francesca’s senior vice president direct-to-consumer & marketing, as well as to Francesca’s public relations firm, ICR, but neither responded to our requests for comment as of press time.
Ghahremani has hired a lawyer who has sent three cease-and-desist letters since Aug. 8. In an Aug. 15 letter, the attorney gave the company an Aug. 19 deadline to respond “in order to avoid legal proceedings.” Ghahremani and her attorney have not heard back from the company, though she says she knows they’ve received the letters and her time-stamped emails. She’s considering filing a lawsuit, but that the cost could run in the thousands of dollars.
She speculates that the company probably knows this and just hopes that she’ll go away.
“Usually when you lawyer up, they respond very quickly, but it seems like they’re blowing off the letters and phone calls,” says Ghahremani.
“I feel like their silence is just saying they know they screwed up.”
Ghahremani has also been blocked by the company’s various social media pages and says that when her friends and followers attempt to comment on Francesca’s pages about the copying, the comments are quickly deleted and the person is blocked.
“Every time an artist takes a stand to protect their copyright, no matter how public it is, they’re taking a stand for all artists,” says Ghahremani, who points to similar cases in which companies such as Zara and Target have also been accused of lifting artist designs. “Anytime you see your work misappropriated and you stand up for it, you’re protecting future artists because that company will realize they can’t pick off other artists so easily.”