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A side-by-side comparison of the two dresses, image from Horses Atelier's Instagram page
A side-by-side comparison of the two dresses, image from Horses Atelier's Instagram page

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Canadian fashion label says dress design copied, sold on Nordstrom website

A Canadian fashion label has said a design for one of its dresses was copied by another brand and sold on the websites of big retailers.

Horses Atelier, founded by Claudia Dey and Heidi Sopinka in Toronto, was alerted to the copied dress by one of its customers. The dress in question, which the company named the Hawaiian Smoking Dress, is black with colourful floral prints. The disputed dress by Fuzzi, an Italian company, is black but with monochrome prints of flowers. The Fuzzi dress was sold on the websites of Nordstrom, MarthaStewart.com and Lyst.

The Canadian company posted a picture of a side-by-side comparison of the two dresses on Instagram to its 18,000 followers and received almost 800 messages of support.

It said: "One of our most beloved designs, our Hawaiian Smoking Dress, COPIED by @fuzzibrand and currently carried by @nordstrom. Stop fashion piracy." It also asked its followers to repost the image and to "riot for intellectual property rights."

Fuzzi defended itself, saying the design is original. It told refinery29 that its dress has no buttons and is shorter and narrower. It also said the colours of the floral print in each dress are different and that the Fuzzi dress is 100% polyester while the Horses design is 55% silk, 45% cotton, and 100% cotton lining.

The Italian company, which was founded in 1954, also said it itself is a target of copycats: "Our clothes are copied and replicated all over the world. We have historical archives that count tens of thousands of garments from which other brands and designers draw inspiration and for this reason we do not need to look for ideas on the market."

But Fuzzi has since agreed to withdraw the dress and remove it from its website and social media sites. The dress has also been taken off Nordstrom, MarthaStewart.com and Lyst.

Horses Atelier said: “Design, when it matters, is such a deeply private act. We are a small feminist enterprise, but our size does make the fight difficult, and frankly, uneven. It comes down to money and backed design houses have that might to steal more and get away with it.”

It said it is working with an intellectual property rights lawyer in the United States and want compensation for this issue.

One of the commenters on Horses Atelier's post, Janet Hill Studio, said: "If Nordstrom sold or shipped those dresses in Canada, you may be able to seek compensation through small claims court which handles copyright infringement cases in Canada. Compensation is only up to $20K but at least it plays on more even ground. Most cases get resolved in 6-12 months. Good luck with the fight!"

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Mark Laudi

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