Plagiarism of art by fashion: inspiration or violation of intellectual property?

In a world where the lines between different artistic disciplines are becoming increasingly blurred, fashion designers often draw inspiration from art to bring their collections to life or to promote their brands.


This issue echoes the recent dispute between the brand Zadig&Voltaire and artist Julian Charriere over a promotional video for the brand that features a flaming fountain, similar to the one captured by the artist in his “And Beneath it all Flows Liquid Fire” video in 2019.


Many fashion designers are inspired by works of art to create their collections and advertising campaigns. However, some of them cross the line and copy the work of established artists almost exactly, without giving them the credit they deserve. This practice is not only ethically questionable, but can can also be harmful to the original artists in terms of violating their intellectual property (“IP”) rights.



  1. Legal issues of intellectual property in fashion and art


Copyrighting protects original works of the mind, whether they are literary, musical, graphic, plastic or photographic creations. Fashion designers may be tempted to take inspiration from a work of art to design a new piece or an advertising campaign, but it is essential to consider the legal issues related to IP.


Plagiarism, or mindless copying of a work, is a violation of copyright. In the case of fashion, it can mean using a work of art without permission to create prints, patterns or even the shape of a garment. If the copying is obvious, the original artist can sue for damages.


The fine line between fashion and art is even more blurred as many luxury brands have launched their own art foundations such as the Cartier Foundation or the Louis Vuitton Foundation.


However, it is important to note that copyright does not protect ideas, only their expression. Thus, taking inspiration from a work of art in order to create a fashion piece is not necessarily illegal, so long as the creation is suitably original and does not directly copy the work in question. Additionally, some artists occasionally can collaborate with fashion designers, such as Louis Vuitton, who recently worked with Japanese artist Yakoi Kusuma to produce a new collection as well as to transform the Louis Vuitton store in Paris, now decorated with a monumental silhouette of the artist.


  1. Consequences of intellectual property infringement


IP infringement can have negative consequences for artists and the fashion industry.


Plagiarism robs original artists of recognition and fair compensation for their work. When a piece of work is copied without permission, the original artist is not credited or paid for their work. This can lead to a loss of income for artists, causing them to abandon their creative work or settle for less than their talent.


In addition, intellectual property infringement hinders innovation in the creative industry. When artists are not rewarded for their work, it can discourage innovation and the creation of new works. Companies that copy original works do not need to devote resources to research and development of new ideas, as they can simply copy those of others.


Finally, intellectual property infringement can have a negative impact on the brand image of companies that engage in this practice. Consumers are increasingly aware of the importance of ethics and corporate social responsibility. When a company is accused of plagiarism or intellectual property infringement, it can damage its brand image and consumer confidence in the company.


In summation, the phenomenon of plagiarism of art by fashion raises complex questions and considerable stakes, both artistically and legally. The line between inspiration and copying can sometimes be unclear, and the fashion industry seems to navigate these murky waters in search of creativity and innovation.


While some see this appropriation as a democratization of art and a way to enrich fashion, others see them as a threat to the value and integrity of original works. At a time when legislation is struggling to adapt to these issues, it is the responsibility of fashion designers and consumers to commit to ethical fashion that respects art and its creators.


It is critical to continue the dialogue between the different actors involved and to rethink the mechanisms of intellectual property protection to ensure a fair balance between creative freedom and respect for copyright. Creators, as well as artists, can call upon professionals such as Industrial Property Attorneys, with their networks of lawyers specialized in intellectual property, to ensure that no IP rights are infringed upon.






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This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.