Anthropologie Apologizes For Selling Goods That Copy Artist Who Had Turned Down Offer To Work With The Company

The popular U.S. store Anthropologie — which specializes in fashion and housewares and is owned by Urban Outfitters — has apologized after selling goods that imitated an artist’s designs without permission, the BBC reported.

In a viral post to her Instagram account on Monday, Australian ceramics artist Tara Burke called the company “scum” after it was brought to her attention that they were selling vases remarkably similar in shape to her own original work.

In a statement issued by the retailer, Anthropologie stated that they take intellectual property of all artists and designers “very seriously,” and that the welfare of their artist community is “a priority.” The company noted they have implemented systems that are meant to protect creators’ rights.

“We deeply regret that in this instance, our safeguards did not hold up to our standards,” the statement continued. “We have tremendous respect for the artist community and are exploring how we can further strengthen our protocols. The product in question is no longer available and we are reaching out directly to Tara Burke.”

The products sold by Anthropologie were purchased from an independent market vendor and was not a design created by the company. In an email sent to Inquisitr, a spokesperson for the company said the purchase of these products that closely mimic Burke’s was due to a lack of communication within the company. Anthropologie’s artist partnership team was not able to alert the buying team of the similarities, the email claims.

Burke told the BBC she was first contacted by the retailer in 2016, when she was offered the opportunity to collaborate with the store by designing vases they would reproduce and sell after paying her a fee.

Burke declined the offer, and didn’t think much of the matter until she was alerted by a friend two years later. Her friend pointed out to her that the Anthropologie website had vases for sale that her friend believed “looked almost identical to her pieces.”

Burke told the BBC she sent a letter of inquiry and an email to the company’s legal team in August — but never received a response. She has since been contacted by the retailer after her post to Instagram — which garnered hundreds of comments from her followers, many tagging the company so as to directly express their anger over the situation.

Burke said that the company offered a phone call to discuss her concerns, but as of yet has made “no mention of compensation.”

This is not the first time that the retailer has found itself in a copy-cat situation. American jewelry designer Lauren Hill collaborated with the company in 2014, when they bought a range of her earrings, but declined their offer to reorder after deciding that the price was too low.

According to the BBC, Hill claims that she noticed Anthropologie advertising earrings similar to her earlier pieces, but the new versions were made overseas. Hill contacted the company several times, but said that she was ignored until addressing the issue on Instagram.

Urban Outfitters, the parent company of Anthropologie, was recently involved in a similar situation in May — when they withdrew a range of vases that imitated a line created by Bristol-based ceramicist Sarah Wilton, “out of deference to the artist.”

Wilton noted that independent designers are often made to “feel powerless” against big companies, the BBC reported.

“It’s important to know your rights and let them know you know, so that you can begin to negotiate,” she said. “Worst-case scenario is they’ll ignore you. If that’s the case, try and get some people power behind you.”

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