Athleta has been forced to remove a pair of pants.
The brand had been accused of copying a K-Deer, an small athletic wear company based in Westwood, New Jersey, Fortune first reported.
The pants that were in question are Athleta’s High Rise Bold Stripe Chaturanga tights, which ostensibly bear striking similarities to K-Deer’s Signature Stripe pants, namely the Sophia, Jody, and Alexis versions.
“My cousin, who works with me, sent me a screenshot — and that was my first view of it,” founder Kristine Deer said to Business Insider, “and that was my first view of it. And it was — I think like I said before [to Fortune, a], very jaw dropping moment. Wow. How could this be?”
Deer said she logged onto Instagram and received notifications regarding the image. “People were tagging me, saying, ‘are you collaborating with them? Are you affiliated? Did you sell them the design?’ And I couldn’t believe it, in like a whole other way, because there’s no way that we are affiliated with them.”
But soon, she started to see an influx of comments from her supporters.
People commented on Athetla’s Instagram page — on a post with the pants in question — saying they would never shop at Athleta again.
“People were angry,” Deer said, largely because the Stripe Series sends donations to various causes, such as brain cancer and domestic violence. Each pair of pants was named after a specific woman who was played an influence in Deer’s life.
And loyal K-Deer customers posted photos on Instagram, highlighting the glaring similarities side-by-side, along with the hashtags #IStandWithKDeer and #BoycottAthleta. Many of these posts were complete with indignant captions, imploring consumers to shop locally and support smaller businesses.
“Without any provoking, any discussion, without any question or request, our fans and our customers stepped up and started to speak out,” she said, adding that she’s “still kind of overwhelmed.”
Deer said she hasn’t “heard anything from Athleta at this point. We obviously have legal counsel advising us in certain ways, there for us if we do hear anything. The only thing that we’ve noticed that they have taken them off their shelves and off the website. Anything beyond that, we’re stil operating business as usual because do have a business to run. “
Gap has confirmed to Business Insider that Athleta has since pulled the pants.
“At Athleta, our customers always come first and, after hearing recent feedback on the High Rise Bold Stripe Chaturanga Tight, we have decided to remove it from our assortment,” Debbie Felix, a spokesperson for Athleta, wrote in a statement to Business Insider.
Deer has posted a heartfelt thank you note on the company’s Instagram page.
“In light of the hundreds of shares, comments, and personal messages, the K-DEER team and I would like to thank you for sharing your loyal and heartfelt support. I’m so honored to be surrounded by a community of people who respect us and honour the values that our business has been built upon, as reflected in our Signature Stripes.”
“I honestly respect the business of Gap and Athleta,” Deer said to Business Insider. “But I don’t respect the way that, you know, they chose to take something of mine that has been so popular for over two years and call it their own. It’s something that we see often in fashion. It’s not easy to protect. It’s devastating for many companies who have completely lost their business because someone else came in and took what they started.”
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