Thursday, May 22, 2008

A plague on you, Louis Vuitton

Confession: I, like many others, am guilty of supporting unethical practices for the sake of fashion. While thrifting certainly alleviates many of my ethical concerns, I also get my kicks from the likes of H&M, Forever21 and Target, each of which are guilty of more than a few ethical violations including poor environmental and labor practices.

Still, I have my limits. I can honestly say that after reading this, I will never toss a dollar over to Louis Vuitton.


The design house has sued artist Nadia Plesner for copyright infringement. Plesner, an artist with Designers for Darfur, designed this t-shirt for the organization, the proceeds of which contribute to fight the genocide afflicting the region.


Plesner's image crticizes the values of the public in light of terrible world events - it implies that, instead of being outraged by the tragedy of Darfur, many people are interested only in celebrities. "I felt horrified by the fact that even with the genocide and other ongoing atrocities in Darfur, Paris Hilton was the one getting all the attention," Plesner said. Vuitton's lawsuit follows a cease-and-desist letter that read, "We cannot help noticing that the design of [your] product includes the reproduction of a bag infringing on LV's intellectual property rights."

Louis Vuitton should be ashamed. The brand seems perfectly happy to poise itself as being emblematic of status and luxury. LV is a willing participant in a culture that feeds off of wealth and elitism. Plesner cleverly used the image to make a potent observation about our society. Her art also funds a terrific cause - and the fact that Louis Vuitton is trying to sponge off of funds intended to serve victims of Darfur is nothing short of disgusting.

This is one of the most offensive examples of elitism in the fashion industry in recent memory. It is highly doubtful that Plesner's work is effecting LV's sales in any way, and so I can only interpret this lawsuit as an exercise in greed. Meanwhile, the victims will ultimately be those already victimized in Darfur.

Or, a bit less articulately: Fuck you, Louis Vuitton.


WendyB said...

With all due respect, I'm sick of people using Darfur to browbeat anyone/thing they disapprove of...I started working on a post on this earlier today! If you're spending money or time on anything that someone else considers "trivial" (and that's highly subjective), someone comes at you and bawls, "You're ignoring Darfur!" Of course, the complaining party's trivial pursuits are fine, it's just everyone else's that's a problem. Also, I don't know where the proceeds from a lot of these fundraising activities are going. What is the money being spent on? Is the money really getting to the needy? How is help being distributed? Also money cannot cure all ills. Throwing money at a social and political problem is not the answer. All the donations in the world will not cure tribal hostilities.

LV is known for aggressively defending their brand; honestly,I don't blame them here. They didn't cause Darfur. I think it's okay for a judge to decide if it's fair use of the brand for free speech purposes.

Lady Smaggle said...

.comI have to agree with WendyB. I know the artist didn't intend to dis L.V and that the bag was used as symbol but it's not overly fair on the brand. I can understand the message the artist is trying to portray but I also understand L.V trying to defend their brand which being used in a shame campaign.

Great post though... Very provoking!

selinaoolala said...

ack yeah i was going to say too how, if i had a brand i wouldn't want it outright slated and related to a war when that's not the issue at hand, but they can't sue a student!

Natasha said...

wendyb: indeed, I cannot fault someone for not obsessing over Darfur 24 hours a day (fact: this is a fashion blog!) Still, it seems to me that the artist's intent was to criticize a society's priorities, which I think deserves merit. As for the charity, further research informed me that the proceeds primarily attack businesses that support the genocide. Though this is not directly contributing money to the victims, by denying money to those who profit from genocide it is making the practice less commercially viable, which I would argue greatly supports the victims.
As for LV defending their brand, I would question why it needs to be 'defended' here...are they losing sales? The way I see it, they have for a long time been positioned as a brand that represents high class...that is the simple fact the artist was trying to convey. I don't see what separates this drawing from a photograph of a celebrity carring an LV the effect so different?

lady smaggle: I definitely see what you are saying, but it bothers me that LV is so comfortable poising itself as a prime luxury brand and then opts to sue when an artist chooses to use it to represent luxury in society. You can't have the best of both worlds.

selinaoolala: I certainly agree, the fact that see is a small artist makes a huge difference.

dlittlegarden said...

This is interesting. LV is well-known for actively fighting against copyright infringement, which I generally support. What's funny to me is that Plesner's work specifically references the LV collaboration with Murakami-- a collaboration that is pointedly rubbing customers' noses in the cult-like following of their consumer wares. By suing Plesner it seems like LV is willing to stand behind art commenting on the vapidness of fashion/pop culture as long as they're making a profit from it; but if an artist makes this comment independent of them, LV's ready to throw down. Very hypocritical.

Lady Language said...

Being part of the retail industry I can see why they would get upset due to copyright infringement and they need to protect their brand. But they should choose their battles wisely. Is this really affecting sales negatively? It's not like she was replicating one of their purses to sell. I can see why you're pissed off at LV.

Lisa ^__^~~~* said...

Really interesting post and I loved reading all the responses to it as well. Really makes you think about fashion in relation to the other things going on in the world.

The Clothes Horse said...

I sympathize with the artist and LV should NOT sue her. But at the same time that is their trademark logo and you can't use it willy-nilly and definitely not in a negative campaign. LV might not be the best company but they're not the cause of economic disparities, merely a symptom.

Perfectly Placed Pauline said...

Agree, the artist is allowed her opinion. I think like many, she was fed up with what is happening right now. I love the balls on this artist..

the iron chic said...

This is a sticky issue.
On one hand I side with the freedom of speech/art aspect-I would defend this to my grave.
On the other hand, if my product was used as a means to convey greed and genocide, I would be pretty upset.
She could of just put a chihuahua wearing a crystal collar in her hand. Same effect.

Isabel said...


Isabel said...

...not the commenters, I mean Louis Vuitton.

Faranak said...

Great post, I wish more people would be openminded.
Unfortunatly the fashion industry is getting shallower everyday (it is only about publicity, 'being the first, biggest and the best', that is all related to money ofcourse, instead of trying to bring out a message together with the beauty).

It doesn't even matter whether or not someone agrees or disagrees with the lawsuit, but the mear fact that people are giving this issue attention and trying to understand is more than enough.

Thanks and goodluck.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The artist made artwork, she didnt make copies of the bag and sold them.

Doesnt anyone even reflect over the fact that artist are not allowed to depict brand and goods that our in our society. In fact some goods have such strong iconic symbol value for our times, that they belong in the art history of today.