Balenciaga Gets Dragged For Ripping Off Idea From Fashion Graduate’s Portfolio
By Izza Sofia, 30 Jul 2020
Image via TY Lim / Shutterstock.com
Balenciaga has been accused of plagiarism after the brand posted an image looking strikingly similar to a concept developed by a fashion student.
Vietnamese student Tra My Nguyen worked on her Master’s Project over a year ago at the University of Berlin. Her project was based on the culture of female motorcyclists in Vietnam, a theme that was personal to her as her mother had to sell her bike for them to afford their move to Germany. Her work saw motorbikes draped in garments, turning them into “wearable sculptures,” she said.
Nguyen told CNN that her “idea was to deconstruct the emerging street style in Vietnam, dubbed as Street Ninja.”
“I collaged UV protection clothes from Vietnam over a motorbike to create wearable sculptures,” she noted.
In October 2019, Balenciaga contacted her regarding her portfolio as the team was looking for interns, but went silent after receiving her work. Later on, the artist saw that the luxury brand had posted a photo that was similar to her artistic project, but this time, vehicles were draped in Balenciaga garments.
Nguyen said she was never asked for permission to have her work used by the brand. “I am not your moodboard,” she addressed issue in an Instagram story, demanding an apology from the brand. “I feel betrayed and hurt as it’s a part of my culture, it’s an artistic process and not a random fashionable aesthetic you can profit on,” she added.
Nguyen has alerted universities to ensure that their students’ intellectual properties are protected. In an email to CNN, she said she also wanted to make sure that “people are more aware of the exploitation of young creatives,” especially students who are black, indigenous and people of color.
“Not only do big brands steal students’ artistic ideas and intellect, but also expect them to work for free as interns,” she explained.
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@balenciaga is known to turn out some of the most innovative runway presentations of the last few years and their sculptural silhouettes honor the house’s legacy while expanding upon it. Unfortunately, a lot of this mastery seems lost in translation between departments. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ In June 2019, artist Tra My Nguyen ( @tra.my1 ) , then a student at Berlin University of the Arts, explored Vietnam's female motorbike culture for her master’s project. Drawing inspiration from her own family history wherein her mother sold her bike in order to immigrate to Germany, she collaged and wrapped clothing over motorbikes to create “wearable sculptures.” ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The next month, a “recruiter” from Balenciaga attended a master’s presentation and requested Nguyen's portfolio. Already in hand, she followed up again in October with a request for photos of her current collection. The Balenciaga creative development strategist, whose position was verified through LinkedIn, told Nguyen they were looking for interns. After sending her portfolio with multiple process images, she never received a reply. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Now, Balenciaga’s Instagram feed shows a near identical image to Nguyen’s sculpture, but wrapped in Balenciaga clothing. Even the backdrop and angle of the photograph is uncannily similar, though the caption made no mention of the inspiration or credit to Nguyen. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ As the creative director of Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia knows full well the power a luxury brand has to elevate the work of independent creatives. For his inaugural Balenciaga SS17 menswear collection, he tapped British menswear designer Martine Rose to consult. Rose, then a relative outsider who founded her label a decade prior, was encouraged by Gvasalia to publicize their partnership, which elevated her profile and was pivotal in growing her namesake business. But too often, brands choose the easier route of copying, while unwittingly leaving a trail of receipts. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ In Nguyen’s Instagram post, she implored Balenciaga about their post. “What is your inspiration? Why are you even draping garments over a motorbike? What do you want to tell us with this pic!,” she said. “I am not your moodboard!”
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I’m so angry and speechless! @balenciaga has yet proved again for stealing, appropriating and profiting from POC artists’ ideas. Last year a recruiter from @balenciaga came to my uni @udkfashion @udkberlin to have a look over our master’s class projects. She requested my portfolio TWICE!I send her my portfolio with process and editorial pics! I never got a reply after that. They have never asked me for permission!!! STOP APPROPRIATING ‘low seen/read culture’, this is so typical of @balenciaga!!! I feel betrayed and hurt as it’s a part of my culture, it’s an artistic process and not a random fashionable aesthetic you can profit on! My master’s project was about female motorbike culture in Vietnam. Rooted in my own family history, from my mother selling her mother bike in order to migrate to Germany, Vietnamese motorbike culture have been a core focus of my work for the past few years. The idea was to deconstruct the emerging street style in Vietnam, dubbed as ‘Street Ninja’. I collaged UV protection clothes from Vietnam over a motorbike to create ‘wearable sculptures’. By doing so, the project suggests a strategy for reimagining the female motorist as protagonists, countering their discriminatory experiences. What is your inspiration? Why are you even draping garments over a motorbike? What do you want to tell us with this pic! TELL ME!!! I demand an apology and also DELETE this pic! I am not your moodboard! PLEASE SHARE!!! @diet_prada @1granary @ichbinkeinvirus #outcall #balenciaga #belanciege #ripoff #culturalappropriation #appropriation #dietprada
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[via NSS Magazine, opening image via TY Lim / Shutterstock.com]
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