In June 2022, Jacksonville-based freelance artist Maggie Stephenson filed a lawsuit against popular online retailer Shein for a staggering $100 million, accusing the company of stealing her designs.
The artist, @maggiestephenson is a well-known illustrator with over 111,000 followers on Instagram who’s designs are available online and at Urban Outfitters, alleges the company copied her artwork without her permission — selling her work for a measly $4.00.
This is not the first time Shein has faced legal action for copyright infringement. The fast-fashion giant has been sued by several other brands, including Levi Strauss, Dr. Martens, and Stussy.
In fact, Stephenson’s complaint highlights that more than 30 separate actions alleging infringement or unfair competition have been filed against Shein and Shein Distribution Corp in the Central District of California.
Shein has a notorious reputation for blatantly copying designs from independent labels and selling them at dirt-cheap prices. They have been accused of not only replicating the designs but also the styling and creative production that goes into the work of these indie brands. Examples include crochet artist Bailey Prado, sustainable swimwear brand Baiia, and size-inclusive ethical fashion brand Loud Bodies, among others.
The lawsuit filed by Stephenson covers four claims, including copyright infringement and the editing or absence of copyright management information. She argues that by using Shein‘s name and logo on the product’s packaging, the company has added “false” copyright management information, falsely identifying themselves as the author and copyright owner of the original artwork.
If proven to be copyright infringement in court, this case could serve as an example of how some large organizations believe they have the upper hand against creators.
As the fast-fashion industry continues to thrive, it is crucial for consumers to be aware of the unethical practices employed by companies like Shein and support independent designers who prioritize quality, sustainability, and ethical production.