Off-white’s lawsuit showcases the brand’s double standards

Off-White is one of the biggest apparel brands today. It is the brainchild of designer and Kanye West collaborator Virgil Abloh. The company recently sued another brand, Rastaclat, for copying some of their designs. Rastaclat is a brand that specializes in making bracelets. In late 2018 they came out with their “Off-Clat” collection. It took heavy inspiration from “The Ten,” a collaboration project Off-White did with Nike in 2017.

This project featured ten reworked versions of classic and popular sneakers that Nike has made over the years. Notable sneakers include the much beloved Air Force 1’s and my personal favorite, the Air Max 97s. Many of them had a minimal look, featuring a predominantly industrial-inspired theme all over the sneakers. This included details such as a red zip tie through the top lace lock and sample dates on the side of the forefoot, giving the shoe an uncanny yet unique style. Their resell prices are through the roof. The white UNC 1s, which are some of the most popular shoes to come out of the collection, are currently selling for as much as $2,400. Rastaclat’s bracelets used red zip ties and even had “shoe laces” and “aglet” printed on in quotation marks. Quotation marks and zip ties are staples in Off-White’s post-modern aesthetic.

On its face, the lawsuit seems sensible, as Off-White is trying to control their brand image. However, given the brand’s past history, this is a classic case of hypocrisy. Off-White’s reasons for suing Rastaclat are similar to what people have accused Off-White of doing themselves. The most notable accusation came from designer Michelle Elie. Elie, whose son runs the indie brand Gramm and Colrs, decried that one of her son’s designs had been stolen from his Fall 2018 collection. The garment was a yellow raincoat with graffiti plastered all over it. The piece debuted in a fashion show in April 2018. Off-White came out with their version in January of 2019, the same time that Elie made her accusation.

Abloh later deflected these claims in a May 14 interview with Vogue. “That way of designing—to develop everything from zero—comes from a different time,” he told the magazine. Throughout his career, Abloh has worn his references on his sleeve, but where is the line between inspiration and theft? Streetwear deserves better. This is yet another example of double-standards in the dog and pony show that is the fashion world.