Takin’ It to the Streets: Cavalli & Street Artists Clash Over Copyrights

Written by Katelyn Crawford

Pablo Picasso once said, “good artists copy, great artists steal.”

Roberto Cavalli might have done both.

photo-2The fashion house—which makes everything from perfume to ready-to-wear clothes under the imprint Just Cavalli —was recently sued by a group of street artists from San Francisco for copyright infringement.  The lawsuit claims that the newest line of Just Cavalli, with “every square inch of every piece adorned with graffiti art,” uses images created by the street artists Revok, Reyes and Steel. Specifically, the clothes are patterned with art work completed in the Mission District of San Francisco.

The artists, whose real names are respectively Jason Williams, Victor Chapa, and Jeffrey Rubin, claim that their works are clearly visible on the clothes, and—worse yet—that Cavalli’s name and emblem is plastered over some of their work.

The court documents blatantly state: “Sometimes, Cavalli added what appears to be a signature, creating the false impression that Roberto Cavalli himself was the artist.”

This is not only a legal issue because it leads consumers to believe that the patterns are created and copyrighted by Cavalli, but it is a cultural diss as well. In the world of street art, it is considered an insult when one artist writes or paints over another artist’s graffiti.  Moreover, the artists find the use of their work in the fashion industry to be in direct conflict with the morals and ethics they stand for.

“Nothing is more antithetical to the outsider ‘street cred’ that is essential to graffiti artists … than association with European chic, luxury and glamour — of which Cavalli is the epitome.”  Essentially, Revok, Reyes and Steel don’t want to be associated with high life glamour, and don’t want to be viewed as “selling out,” according to the complaint.

Cavalli is not backing down just yet.  The company released a statement addressing the allegations and stated they “have no basis in fact and are incorrect; we intend to contest and defend against these allegations vigorously.”  But the label went on to express that it wants to avoid litigation, and will be communicating with the artists to discuss a resolution.

Images via Instagram/RobertoCavalli

About the author

Katelyn Crawford

Katelyn is a graduate of George Mason University School of Law, where she studied economics as applied to law. She also completed course work at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. While living in Washington, D.C. Katelyn was a journalist, and worked in numerous policy areas including technology, military and education. She now works in financial compliance, and writes for multiple publications. When Katelyn isn't being a lawyer or writer, she is a photographer. You can follow her on twitter @WeSingSin.

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