H&M is getting shredded after being accused of stealing an artist’s design for its own use — without giving her credit or compensation, according to Regretsy.
Then, as people flocked to its Facebook page to voice their opinions, H&M started deleting comments, angering them further.
In 2008, Tori LaConsay painted a sign in her neighbourhood “You Look Nice Today,’ accompanied by a little heart in the corner. Then, a few days ago, her friends showed her something intriguing on H&M’s UK website.
She was surprised to see what appears to be nearly the exact same design being sold on a plethora of H&M products — from doormats to towels to pillows.
When LaConsay emailed H&M customer service, it immediately denied everything, according to Regretsy:
We employ an independent team of over 100 designers. We can assure you that this design has not been influenced by your work and that no copyright has been infringed.
As she got the word out about what happened, people began posting about it on the company’s Facebook page. The posts were subsequently deleted. This, as we learned with a recent debacle involving ChapStick, is rarely the right thing to do.
Eventually, H&M halted the purge and issued a “sorry if” pseudo-apology on the page:
We apologies [sic] if anyone should think we have copied, which has never been our intention and also not allowed. We have merely been inspired, after seeing many different varieties with different text messages, to create something similar in a different font, with the use of big and small brackets and the placement of the shaped heart. We are truly sorry if we have led someone to believe that we intentionally should have copied someone else’s creation.
That statement contradicts the first one (about the design being ‘influenced by’ the original work). People were still riled up, and H&M put up a couple more posts as it tried to douse the flames.
It apologized for the initial customer service statement, and said that it’s working directly with LaConsay to figure things out:
Is it working? Commenters are still filling the threads with support for the artist, with words like “pirates,” “scum” and “liars” being thrown around. With the strength of the social web, things can go viral in a heartbeat. And when you contradict yourself, it makes you easy prey, since it looks like you’re misleading the public (though at least it acknowledged the mistake of its customer service department).
But the PR fallout isn’t the biggest issue here. Somewhere along the line, H&M managers decided to use a design that, allegedly, wasn’t theirs to use. There need to be checks in place to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.