She said, she said

Cara Delevingne accused of ripping off a feminist T-shirt design

A photo posted to Delevingne's Instagram account

Cara Delevingne has come under fire from L.A. design studio Otherwild. Owner Rachel Berks accused Delevingne of ripping off her store’s design of a top, emblazoned with the words: “The future is female.”

According to a New York Times article last month, the original T-shirt design was created for Labyris Books, the first feminist bookstore in New York City. Photographer Liza Cowan photographed her then-girlfriend Alix Dobkin wearing it in 1975, and the image appeared recently in an Instagram account of historic lesbian imagery, where it was seen by Berks. She began to produce the T-shirts, with 25 percent of profits going to Planned Parenthood. Two of the tops were purchased by Annie Clark, Delevingne’s girlfriend, at Killjoy’s Castle, and each woman was later photographed wearing them.

In an Instagram post on Sunday, showing herself and model Adwoa Aboah wearing tops bearing the slogan, Delevingne announced she would be selling the garment, with proceeds going to United Nations Foundation’s adolescent girl campaign “Girl Up!”

I took down my post yesterday about #thefutureisfemale controversy, because the negative commentary was overwhelming me, but I wanted to share my thoughts and this image which shows #Otherwild's sweatshirt on the left, and @caradelevingne's identical version on the right. The slogan "The Future Is Female" originates from Jane Lurie's and Marizel Rios' Labyris Books (1972), and Otherwild used @lizacowan's image of Alix Dobkin in the shirt (1975) with permission, as originally seen on Kelly Rakowski's @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y. Otherwild's redesign and reissue of the FIF tees and buttons is protected under copyright law, which mandates that any reproduction of an existing known public work must be altered at least 20% from the original. If model/actress Cara Delevingne wanted to sell my line, she would need to wholesale them from Otherwild, and because we donate 25% of our line's proceeds to Planned Parenthood, Delevingne's ethical practice would benefit not only our woman-owned small business but would also serve as a significant donation to PP. Delevingne could also choose not to wholesale from Otherwild and create her own design of the slogan on clothing to sell. But Delevingne's choice to lift and manufacture Otherwild's design, claiming it as her own to sell with an undisclosed charitable offering, is indefensible. Her actions ironically counter the very message of the slogan "The Future Is Female", and it's confounding that she would do this to a small queer feminist-owned business after purchasing the product from us just a few weeks ago. Although under pressure, Delevingne has changed the line's attribution several times in the past 24 hrs., she has not yet offered to wholesale from us nor cease and desist blatantly copying and selling our designs.

A post shared by OTHERWILD (@otherwild) on

In a statement to Jezebel, Berks said that Otherwild’s reissue of the Labyris Books design (from 1972) is protected under copyright law, “which mandates that any reproduction of an existing known public work must be altered at least 20 percent from the original.”

Berks suggests Delevingne could either purchase the garments wholesale from Otherwild (thereby benefitting Planned Parenthood as well) or create her own design of the slogan on T-shirts and sell them, as she plans to, with proceeds to Girl Up! “It is confounding that she would do this to a small queer feminist-owned business after purchasing the product from us just a few weeks ago,” Berks wrote.

Meanwhile, Delevingne herself responded through Instagram, claiming that Otherwild does not own the design, writing: “I did not steal anything, they did not create the slogan” and “They are not the creators.”

Read the full story at Refinery 29 and Jezebel.

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