Wednesday 22 November 2017

'It's hard for me to ignore the similarities' - Irish designer claims Penneys 'ripped off' her design

Zoë blouse is on the left and the Penneys item is on the right
Zoë blouse is on the left and the Penneys item is on the right
Zoe Carol Wong

Kathy Armstrong

Fashion retailer Penneys has denied ripping off an Irish designer's design for their latest collection.

Zoë Carol Wong, founder of fashion label Zoë Carol, said that she was taken aback when a friend pointed out the similarities between one of the bird-print blouses from her Spring/Summer 2016 collection and another that was recently released by high-street giant Penneys.

Zoë (33), explained how the resemblance between the two items stunned her.

The Kilkenny-based mum told "A friend of mine is a stockist in Belfast who would have been carrying my design last Spring/Summer, she came across the blouses a few weeks ago and she sent me the picture.

"She said she was really angry for me, I was pretty shocked but I thought I shouldn't overreact because it's from an old collection, we're here a year later so it's not actually doing any financial damage or competing for my sales.

"I showed it to my boyfriend because I felt I might have been ripped off and he was wondering why I was so calm, he knew it wasn't right."

Zoe Carol Wong
Zoe Carol Wong

She continued to say: "I put in on Instagram first and then Facebook, a lot of people have said it's very similar but there's also a lot of people who have told me to stay calm and reminded me that I don't own birds - I know I don't own birds, I didn't invent them, I don't even have a pet one but I really loved that print and it was really well thought out, I designed it for a purpose.

"I agree there's a lot of bird motifs out there but when it's something so close to the bone, it's hard for me to ignore the similarities.

"In Ireland we have a thing telling people not to get up on their high horse, asking why would they copy you, that was kind of my first reaction but I have friends who pointed out they definitely, most likely did copy me, it's not just big designers who get copied, small designers are not immune.

"It's never happened to me before, I think that's why my  reaction was so bizarre, I didn't know how to react."

A spokeswoman for Primark denied any suggestion their design was inspired by Zoe's.

They said in a statement: "Primark’s team of designers take great pride in bringing its customers the latest trends at affordable prices.

"The Primark buyers responsible for commissioning and developing the product in question were not familiar with Ms Wong’s company, or with its designs, and at no time took inspiration from them."

Zoe, who is originally from Galway, also said that consumers  should perhaps think about why their fashion bargains are so cheap.

She said: "I understand things are inexpensive in high street shops, it's all about fast fashion but there's no protection and this means people could become reluctant to  put out new stuff.

"I want to be realistic, people are not going to stop shopping in Penneys or for fast, cheap, fashion.

"The consumer just needs to be aware this happens and decide if they're okay with that but I don't think the public cares but it doesn't stop them enough from shopping there, it's a tough one.

"Corporations should be more responsible to be more ethical and responsible so the general public isn't buying into false ideals...

"My price point for a dress is €200-300, I charge that to cover that cost, I make very little, I don't think people realise the mark-ups, the labour costs, the design costs, it's just not general knowledge."


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