This week, Forever 21 joined the growing list of retailers accused of copying Kanye West. It was the rapper himself who originally said it: “And now I look and look around and there’s so many Kanyes!”
Here’s how the controversy unfolded this time around.
When a tee by the L.A.-based menswear brand SDC by Simon de Cyrene popped up on Forever 21’s website earlier this week, some shoppers thought the shirt’s gothic lettering and burnt orange color palette looked familiar. Within hours, SDC was accused of ripping off the design from Kanye West’s Life of Pablo tour merchandise. SDC says Forever 21 sold out of the gothic-lettered shirt shortly thereafter.
Now, however, SDC is breaking their silence on the shirt controversy, which they say wasn’t a mistake: “We knew we would draw attention from the media,” the company told us. “We knew this could be an opportunity to make a statement of our own.”
In an email to Pigeons & Planes, a rep for the company doesn’t deny the resemblance between their “SDC For The World” shirt and Kanye’s tour merch. Instead, SDC claims the company simply shares Kanye’s inspiration for the design: Cali Thornhill DeWitt, an L.A. artist who ‘Ye tapped to design his tour merch.
DeWitt was well-known in California pre-Pablo for his memorial sweatshirts, which honor deceased family members of SoCal’s Chicano community with the same gothic-style lettering on Kanye’s merchandise. The only difference is that Kanye commissioned and worked with DeWitt to create the pieces.
“When we discovered the design source of TLOP t-shirts, having grown up in Los Angeles in the ’80s, we were inspired by Cali Thornhill DeWitt’s homage to the Chicano gangs’ funeral/memorial shirts,” SDC said. “We wanted to do Cali Thornhill DeWitt’s homage justice by mimicking his style exactly […] we were also paying respect to Kanye’s recognition of the cultural significance of Cali Thornhill DeWitt’s inspiration and reference.”
But “SDC is more than just a Cali Thornhill DeWitt fanboy,” they added. With styles like the “SDC For The World” shirt, the company is “emulating on-point trendy fashion designs at very accessible prices.”
We wanted to do Cali Thornhill DeWitt’s homage justice by mimicking his style exactly.
It should be noted, though, that the Kanye version isn’t terribly pricey itself: while the SDC shirt retails for $34, a similarly-designed Pablo tour shirt will set you back $40-$45.
Still, customers who are seeking the cheaper version may return empty-handed. Even though the SDC shirts at Forever 21 sold out, the company has no plans to make more.
“We make all the shirts—from knitting of the fabric to sewing to printing—in small batches in Los Angeles,” they said. “There are no plans of restocking them any time soon.”