Black female-owned label claims Boohoo is copying its designs and starts legal proceedings

KAI Collective has sent a cease and desist letter due to alleged copyright infringement

London-based high-end fashion label KAI Collective has sent a cease and desist letter to fast-fashion giants Boohoo due to alleged copyright infringement.

The brand has spoken out after claiming to find a high level of similarity in the prints used by Boohoo to designs in a KAI collection. The KAI collection was released in summer 2020 while Boohoo’s was released in January 2021.

KAI Collective has issued Boohoo with a cease and desist letter asking them to stop the production of products that they allege infringe on KAI’s copyrighted property. The brand has requested a £30,000 payment for damages and the coverage of legal costs.

KAI Collective is a black female-owned, independent fashion label that designs “attainable clothing with luxury aesthetics”. The business is owned by Fisayo Longe and has been in operation since 2016, with her work being acknowledged in the likes of ELLE and Cosmopolitan.

Lounge initially tweeted Boohoo with the allegations but has since deleted them. In a follow-up tweet, she wrote: “Thank you so much for all the love and support you have shown. As a small fashion brand, I take this very seriously and your support means so much. Since this is now an ongoing legal discussion between both parties, with a view of reaching a resolution.

“I have taken my post down with hopes that the right thing will be done. I just want everyone to know that you’re never too small to protect your work and stand up for it.”

Longe started production on her distinctive ‘Gaia’ prints in 2019 alongside Grapes Pattern Bank with the intention of building a strong brand identity to stand apart from other designers. The bespoke patterns draw on the spirit of the 60s. KAI believes that its designs are more than clothes, they’re a form of identity, expression and individualism made with female body confidence in mind.

Image via Twitter, courtesy of @FisayoLonge

After the launch of KAI’s ‘Gaia’ print and several imitations, the company obtained design registration for the UK, EU and are undergoing the process in the US. The designs are legally protected within Europe under copyright law as the prints are seen as intellectual property. Despite this, KAI insists it has noticed the almost identical copying of its prints by Boohoo.

Longe told The Tab: “I am not sure that I am the first small brand to pursue legal reparations from Boohoo, but it is definitely very daunting, stressful and intimidating. No small brand with limited resources wants to spend their time or their money in this way. However, things really do need to change and if I can be instrumental to this much-needed change, I will. I would love for the public to take a stance and demand accountability from brands like Boohoo.”

The fashion industry is saturated with fast-fashion businesses who appropriate the trends of the moment from higher-end independent businesses that have created a specific and tailored brand, and undercut them in the market by using cheaper labour force and resources. While as yet unproven, the mass-reproduction and alleged copying of KAI Collective’s work may ultimately be seen as mirroring the overshadowing of independent, female and black creative output in the fashion industry. Lounge says one of Boohoo’s dresses which was allegedly appropriated from her work was retailing 85 per cent less than the price of the original design on KAI Collective’s website. If true, this could prove to be an example of how fashion giants destabilise the income of independent businesses by consistently charging less for designs they have appropriated.

Mahmud Kamani, the owner of Boohoo and other fast-fashion businesses such as PrettyLittleThing, is worth over £1 billion but is a controversial figure in the fashion world. Longe pointed out how legal proceedings have cost her business thousands, which she noted for independent businesses like hers is unaffordable and often stops small brands from seeking compensation for design theft. Customers and supporters of KAI Collective have taken to Twitter to show their support for Longe, with some even claiming that £30,000 isn’t enough compensation.

Boohoo has until the 22nd February to respond and comply with the cease and desist, failing this legal action could be taken further.

Boohoo declined to comment.

Featured image credit: KAI Collective (left) and Boohoo Instagram (right).

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