Alala's Flyweight hoodie...
...and Forever 21's version.
In early February, Alala’s founder and CEO, Denise Lee, received an email from a customer pointing out the similarities. “I felt very conflicted, especially since some of the designs were blatant copies being sold at incredibly low prices,” Lee told Refinery29 of her initial reactions to the undeniable aesthetic parallels. “On one hand, you could argue our designs are public domain that anyone can access. On the other, we are a small team working hard on designing product that our customers will love and building our brand, so it was very disheartening.” Lee then posted on Instagram Stories about the knockoffs, and “received an incredible response of support,” from followers, she said.
Alala's Swell Cropped Tank...
...and Forever 21's take on the piece.
As for why we’ve seen so many knockoffs recently, Lee thinks it has to do with an influx of smaller startup-scale fashion labels in the past couple of years, and how they've been able to succeed: “I think big brands are realizing more and more that they're not as in control of the market as they used to be,” she said. “There’s a lot of innovation and creativity coming from smaller brands,” pointing out that it’s easier than ever for indie names to reach customers — certainly by social media and celebrity sightings, if not via ad budgets. “Bigger brands are trying to figure out how to respond to this new challenge, and copying is unfortunately a result of that.”
Alala won’t be pursuing legal action against the retailer: As a small company, Lee and her team decided to “focus our time, energy, and money to doing what we do best — creating products that our customers are going to love” in addition to bringing attention to the striking similarities.
We’ve reached out to Forever 21 for comment, and will update when we hear back.
Alala's The Cut bra in Summer Palm...
...and the Forever 21 iteration.
Photo: Courtesy of Alala.