Thursday, June 2, 2011

Jeb Kennedy Soap-box Time: Why you should still be angry at Urban Outfitters

So obviously most of you have read this article (or a similar one) by now. And I'm sure that for awhile you were just as furious as I was. How could a company, who has quite obviously crafted their image to resonate with the underground "artistic" scene, steal so blatantly from a small self-supporting artist? We were all very angry! Urban Outfitters (the big, faceless corporation) was trying to steal from the little guy! Everyone grab a torch and/or pitchfork!

And then you probably read this article. And suddenly you weren't as angry anymore. As it turns out, the small independent artist seems to have borrowed her idea from a few other artists, who in turn had borrowed the same idea from someone else. Everyone is borrowing! It all evens out.

Well I don't think we should so quick to forgive our dear friends at UO. Here are a few reasons why:

1. The "everyone else did it" argument is flimsy and doesn't absolve UO by any means. Obviously this design has a history of being passed around and stolen by any and every kind of artist. The sad thing is that Urban Outfitters, a huge company with plenty of resources, didn't even attempt the break the "borrowing cycle." An intern or underpaid designer saw the design on the internet, passed the images around the office, and before you know it UO has a new piece of jewelry. In essence, Urban Outfitters is perpetuating the cycle of lazy (borderline criminal) design. They didn't even try to put their own unique spin on the design. It's almost a literal copy/paste.

2. Regardless of this particular situation, UO has a loooong history of stealing artwork. This practice is actually pretty common in the clothing/apparel world. See a design you like? Change it a little, slap it on a t-shirt, and there's usually nothing the original creator can do (especially against a large company like UO). So what this shows us is that, although they make themselves out to be something else, Urban Outfitters is really no different than any other big business. They do not care about art, or artists, or the "Indie" scene. They want to make money off of people that do. GAP may be overpriced and needlessly pretentious, but at least you know what you're getting (the shirts won't unravel after two washes).

3. Urban Outfitter does not know what designs are worth stealing. These necklaces are cute in a "folksy craft-fair" sort of way. But are they worth STEALING? COME ON. There are plenty of better designs out there to rip off. GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER, UO.

In closing: although this particular instance of purported thievery isn't as blatant as once thought, it brings to light several disappointing aspects of Urban Outfitters; a company that has made it's fortune off trendy(overpriced) appearances.

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