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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Urban Outfitters doesn’t ‘heart’ Twitter right now–thanks to Miley

Twitter passions can flare in a heartbeat, turning potentially millions for or against a specific cause. Clothing retailer Urban Outfitters is the current focus of one such movement – one attracting the attention of pop star Miley Cyrus – that alleges intellectual property theft from an independent jeweler’s “I Heart Destination” designs.
Earlier this week, a jewelry designer selling her product via online marketplace Etsy tweeted links comparing her necklace to a glaringly similar one on Urban Outfitters’ website. “Hey @UrbanOutfitters, this is NOT COOL. Way to rip me off,” she wrote, using the handle @imakeshinylove. She asked for retweets for the cause, and even posted a comparison of her version of the necklace and the national retail chain’s.
Outrage has since spurred a “Boycott Urban Outfitters” Facebook page that was slowly gaining fans, and the company removed the necklace from its e-commerce platform. Though the company did not immediately respond to a request to comment, to its credit it quickly tweeted this: @UrbanOutfitters Hey guys, we see your tweets regarding the I Heart Destination necklace. Please know that our accessories buying team is looking into this.
The interesting thing about this case is that people seem to care. After all, allegations of stolen or mimicked designs run rampant in the fashion world. But the issue seems to be gaining more momentum than is typically seen in fashion-related counterfeit cases, because social media once has equipped a lone person with a bigger-than-before-possible voice with which to air her grievances. And it helps that a celebrity, Miley Cyrus, happened to be listening. Tweeted the young singer from @MileyCyrus: “Love that everybody is hating on Urban Outfitters.”
Said one executive with knowledge of this dispute: “Big companies like Urban Outfitters are gambling (generally successfully) that the independent artists won’t have the money, clout, or wherewithal to fight them. They don’t care until it hits their pocketbook.” Whether or not this little movement online will actually have a monetary impact on Urban, and make other retailers wary of selling wares that could even be construed as derivative of others’ designs, remains to be seen.
Regardless, this isn’t such a bad deal for an underdog now known by Cyrus’ gazillion fans. Lesson learned: leverage the crisis.
To read the original story in Advertising Age, click here.


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