A brand with an important history behind but that had never been so much discussed like it has from 2015. From the advent of new creative director Demna Gvasalia, Balenciaga can’t stop being a topic of discussion and debate, dealt with the same fervor by media outlets and kids. The fact the Georgian designer deliberately draws inspiration from middle class symbols, proposing them at expensive prices, is no big news. From the Chinese beauty slippers of 2016, to the last claim to court from the company Arbre Magique. Demna subverted the roles of the parties usually involved within the real-fake mechanisms, introducing symbols of popular mundanity from a luxury brand.
Here follow the cases in which his homage has not been appreciated:
In 2017, the tote bag Arena blue was launched, a bag resembling the design and proportion of the practical Ikea shopper. The difference lays in the material implied: Made in Italy leather in the first case, plastic in the second. Ikea, however, responds claiming the qualities its original design: it can hold heavy weights, even bricks and water, it can be simply washed with a garden hose and its price is only 0.99$ (against 2145$).
A few months later on that same year, music producer Swizz Beatz publicly charges on Instagram Balenciaga to have copied the design of the shirt produced by Ruff Ryders, the record label funded by his uncles. On the shirt, the R was changed with a B, and the sentence below “Ruff Ryders or Die” with “The Power of Dreams”. Later, Gvasalia responded saying his was a “homage”.
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After the debut of the Resort18 collection, Balenciaga was sued by New York based souvenir company City Merch, which claims a violation of copyright infringement. The landscape printed on bags, keyrings and merchandising of the various souvenir stores was displayed on bags and sweatshirts of the Parisian brand. City Merch, with their accusation, expected to receive part of the earnings gained thanks the copy of its design but what they got instead was simply the retirement of these products from the US market, but not from the international one.
Last week the latest lawsuit arrived from the company of Arbre Magique and Julius Samann Ltd., who claim the copycat of their LittleTree AirFreshner. The design is identical, and even the colors, typically associated with a specific fragrance in the original product. It’s not the first time that the design of the scented little trees gets decontextualized, the Car Freshner Corporation had just allowed Anya Hindmarch the use of its design for the labels of bags and luggages. In the Balenciaga case, however, the company wants to avoid confusion with what isn’t an authorized collaboration and asks for the withdrawal of the product from production and distribution and a compensation for the earnings obtained with it.
Text by Enrica Miller