[Editor’s note: INQUIRER.net has reached out to Rixo regarding the issue but is yet to receive a response.]
A Filipino artist, who goes by the professional name Feanne, has called out United Kingdom fashion brand Rixo for allegedly plagiarizing her artwork in their exclusive clothing line. Rixo, founded by Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey, was only launched last 2015.
Feanne is an artist specializing in illustration and has been publishing and exhibiting her artworks since 2006. She told INQUIRER.net today, April 4, that this is not the first time an artwork of hers has been plagiarized.
“But it’s my first time dealing with a brand that is so vehement in insisting on its claim of independently creating the artwork in question,” she said.
Feanne first took to social media last April 2 where she accused Rixo of using her artwork in their prints. She posted side-by-side photos of her artwork, “Star, Moon, Cloud, Sky Drawings” (which she published in a licensing platform back in October 2014) and Rixo’s exclusive prints “Moonlit Sky” and “Oriental Sky” which they launched just last 2016.
Rixo has allegedly passed off the prints as their own, as products of “hours of hand painting and sketching.”
“The Moonlit Sky print is apparently among their bestsellers, such that they re-released it in 2017 and 2018,” Feanne said via her artist Facebook page. “They used this print on clothing sold on retailers such as Net-A-Porter, and it was featured on publications such as WhoWhatWear.”
In summary: My artwork was plagiarized by UK fashion brand Rixo, which claims that all their prints are original…
Feanne and her lawyer reached out to Rixo back in December 2018 after one of Rixo’s customers recognized the prints as substantially similar to Feanne’s artwork.
Rixo’s legal team responded to Feanne last January 2019, saying they did not obtain a license to use her drawings because their prints were “independently designed.”
Even more, their letter called Feanne’s allegations “spurious” and “made in a vain attempt to piggy back off the huge success” of Rixo.
Feanne has since requested Rixo to immediately cease using and selling the infringing designs and publicly acknowledge her moral rights on Rixo’s website and anywhere else it has been used. She also requested for Rixo to pay the damages for copyright infringement and breach of her moral rights, to issue a public apology, and pay her legal costs, as per a second letter her lawyer sent last March 29.
Inspiration vs. replication
These days, art is hardly ever original, as Feanne shared that nobody can truly create something from scratch. She, however, clarified the difference between replication and inspiration, not as a black-and-white distinction, but in the line of a spectrum.
“It’s more of a spectrum, where you have inspiration on the one end, and replication on the other end, and a specific case will fall somewhere along that line, perhaps more towards one or the other, or sometimes just in the middle,” she said.
Feanne also shared how one can determine whether a piece is more of an inspiration or a replication of an artwork. These includes checking if the original work’s imperfections have been retained in the alleged derivative work. Another is in removing the portions in the derivate work that appear to have been lifted from the original, and to see if it can still stand on its own.
“In my case you can see that the drawings appear identical down to the irregularities and asymmetrical portions,” she told INQUIRER.net. “I think it’s obvious if you remove the portions in the Rixo print that look identical to my work, what’s left is quite different.”
‘Class and privilege at work’
Rixo boasts of 182,000 followers in its Instagram account, almost 6,000 more in their Facebook page, and an international market reach. Yet despite the big brand Feanne is up against, she vowed to continue to assert her rights as an artist.
“I’ll be reaching out to retailers and publishers of Rixo because they also have a right to know,” she said.
She also spoke of how class and privilege are usually at play when it comes to art plagiarism, with big brands often exploiting an independent artist’s work and passing the work off as their own.
“Typically it’s a bigger brand that exploits the work of an independent artist,” Feanne told INQUIRER.net. “These big brands feel insulated from consequences by their privilege and resources.”
Feanne has since received the support of varied people, from loved ones and friends, to lawyers, fellow artists and even strangers the world over.
“[They] have been very kind and generous with their support of me in this issue,” she said. “I’m very grateful to them.”
Thus far, Feanne has received a second response from Rixo and is currently in discussion with her lawyer. JB