Mathilde Cabanas is an independent French artist and illustrator. She specializes in paper making where she prints her unique illustrations to create stationary kits, notebook covers, invitations, cards and tags.
Cabanas' art is detailed and beautifully personalized, you see her creativity flow through. So it's unfortunate and saddening that fast fashion label, IKKS, recently stole her famous BISOU logo design (pictured below).
Konbini chatted with Mathilde about how unfair it is that large fashion brands are constantly getting away with creative theft (the ZARA scandal, anyone?).
Mathilde and many other artists like her are at risk of losing their brand image, money and clients. She believes her story needs to be heard in order to change unethical workings of large fashion brands. And so do we.
Konbini: Hey Mathilde! Tells us – how did you feel when you first found out IKKS was using your BISOU logo design?
Mathilde Cabanas: As a small independent artist, you work really hard and put your heart and soul into everything that you do. When people start to know your work and know your name, you're like "wow, finally, all these hard times are paying off," and you're so proud of it!
So when big companies like IKKS shamelessly use your work because they simply found it on the internet, you feel you've been robbed.
They don't really care who you are or where it comes from, they just help themselves because they're pretty much untouchable. It makes it difficult in those times to keep the faith and to remain creative as your own creativity is being exploited and tainted.
How are they still able to use your logo since you've had it protected for so long?
I filed for protection of my Bisou design (the writing with the heart below) at the INPI (National Intellectual Property Institute) in 2014. But it seems like that is not enough to talk IKKS out of using it.
They do not consider it as an "original design." And you know what, if I take them to court, the trial can last up to 2 years. Whilst in the meantime, they'll sell all their Bisou items all over the world, even putting them at a discount sale. All of this is going to tarnish my own design because it is used in a way I would have never wanted.
How has this situation impacted your business?
Honestly, just the lawyer letter and bailiff cost me about $2241. And a trial would cost me twice more. For such a small business as mine, it really puts it in jeopardy, and I don't even have a 100% chance of winning the trial.
When it comes to Bisou, I've been working with many brands which pay me royalties to use my design so how do you think they react when they hear that IKKS is using it for free? The IKKS garments spoil my professional image and the image of my design.
How do you think this problem can be solved?
I called on a lawyer and a bailiff to warn IKKS about illegally using designs they don't own. They asked them to withdraw all the Bisou garments from the shops and e-shop. But as I said, they denied to acknowledge the originality of my design and rejected my request.
Now it's the whole "David and Goliath" thing. And the choice is mine. I either go to trial where I'll spend a lot of money and energy, hoping for justice but earn back merely the same as what the whole thing cost me. Or I just give up because I know too well what might happen and, you know, I have my business to run and this is where my energy should go! To create and prosper!
What do you believe should happen to big brands that copy small artists like yourself?
The best thing that could happen is to create awareness of the issue so that customers can make better decisions when it comes to their brand. It's called ethics you know, and it's becoming quite significant to look at the sustainability and eco-friendly habits of these fast fashion groups.
Copying artists is just a branch of this big ethical theme. Consumers need to get more information so they can choose wiser. This will affect the future decisions of big fast fashion companies.
"I'm working with many brands which pay me royalties to use my design so how do you think they react when they hear that IKKS is using it for free?!"
What do you think this says about the fashion industry as a whole?
It shows that all these big brands make lots of money because they know where and how to cut their expenses. And they cut it where you absolutely shouldn't; the making and creativity behind the clothes should be the most important part of their business.
They cut on the quality by making clothes in low quality, offshore factories. They cut on the creativity by not hiring enough innovative people to create their own designs. And the few creatives they have in their companies have to deliver so many designs so fast (aka"fast fashion"). This really must effect what idea they can construct.
That's where the Internet and stealing a cute design they saw on Pinterest or Instagram becomes a great tool to overcome this lack of time and deal with the pressure they have!