Illustrator Feanne Mauricio recently made public her struggle with United Kingdom (UK) brand Rixo for allegedly plagiarizing her artwork to use as designs for their “original hand-sketched” prints. An artwork she had initially published in October 2014 bears identical elements to a fabric print Rixo released in 2016. Feanne has since taken legal action and had her lawyer contact the brand only to be responded to with total denial. She then shared the story on Facebook as a means of ‘publicly asserting her rights as the original artist’.
According to her post on Facebook, the situation is as follows:
In summary: UK fashion brand Rixo, which claims that all their prints are original handpainted designs by their founders, have prints (“Moonlit Sky” and “Oriental Sky”) that look identical to my artwork. They sold clothing with these prints on retailers like Net-A-Porter, and got featured by publications like Who What Wear. When my lawyer contacted Rixo about this, Rixo’s lawyer responded by claiming that they independently created
Feanne further explains that a contact of hers alerted her to the possibility of her work being used for a print on Rixo clothing. Feanne clarifies that Rixo never reached out to her for either a collaboration or commission — so the use of her print would be outside of legal means. Since Rixo is a brand that operates on the basis of original and handpainted prints, a claim like this would obviously raise some questions.
Rixo’s lawyers responded to Feanne’s inquiry by saying they did not have, nor need, a license for the print used in their clothing. They claim that “our client independently designed and created the Moonlit Sky, Cream Oriental Sky, and Green Oriental Sky prints (“RIXO Prints”) in January 2016. They were designed and sketched by hand by Henrietta and Orlagh. In any event (but irrelevant in the circumstances), the RIXO Prints are not substantially similar to the Star, Moon, Cloud, Sky Drawings.”
Feanne disputes these claims by showing a simple side-by-side of her artwork versus the design which Roxi produced and profited from. She writes: “I first published this artwork online in October 2014 on a licensing platform. I have the original drawings on paper, as well as the original scanned file dated October 2014. The linework is consistent with my illustration style.”
A closeup of the different illustrations within the print clearly reveal how the objects seem to be identical. Feanne presses: “I find it hard to believe that these were independently created, as even the asymmetry and irregularities in the lines are identical.”
Perhaps the most frustrating part about the whole situation for Feanne is that these Rixo prints have brought them immense success. The Moonlit Sky print, in particular, is even one of Rixo’s bestsellers. Feanne explains: “Rixo has been using the Moonlit Sky and Oriental Sky prints, which contain my artwork, since 2016. The Moonlit Sky print is apparently among their bestsellers, such that they re-released it in 2017 and 2018. They used this print on clothing sold on retailers such as Net-A-Porter, and it was featured on publications such as WhoWhatWear.”
She ended her post by saying: “My lawyers at Stephenson Harwood UK have sent Rixo a letter response on March 29 to assert my claim. I demand that Rixo give me a public apology, attribution, and financial compensation for their unauthorized commercial use of my work as well as for the legal fees I am incurring in pursuing this matter.”
This situation is symptomatic of a larger issue which concerns the under-appreciation of artists and their art. As lovely as the democratization of success through the internet has been, it also serves as a double-edged sword. The expansion of platforms and opportunities brings with it more chances to be exploited and taken advantage of. While there are legal means and counteractions to take, the simpler solution is for other people to just be decent human beings and not claim others’ work to be their own.
What do you think: is the print a match or just very similar?
Photos courtesy of Feanne Mauricio