Gwen Stefani has long been a trendsetter – who can forget her signature brand of punk-meets-chic style in the 1990s? Or her chameleon-like transformation as a quirky-glam solo artist? But who’d have thought she’d make a trend out of filing lawsuits against low-cost retail giant Forever 21?
In 2007, the retailer wasn’t able to find its sweet escape from a trademark infringement lawsuit filed by Stefani. Representatives for the style icon claimed the store was “marketing, promoting, and selling products featuring a design ‘virtually indistinguishable’ from Harajuku’s signature heart/box logo.”
The singer’s Japanese-inspired Harajuku Lovers line debuted in 2005, hot off the success of the 2003 launch of L.A.M.B., her debut fashion collection. Harajaku Lovers was introduced as a more affordable, accessible way for fans to add their own touch of Stefani’s signature style to their wardrobes.
The lawsuit claimed that due to Forever 21’s, er, “inspired” interpretation, the brand “suffered and continues to suffer damage to its business reputation.” How exactly did the California-based retailer infringe on Harajuku’s line? According to the lawsuit, Forever 21 “changed a couple of words in the Heart/Box Trademark, which are inconspicuous and likely to go unnoticed by a consumer.”
Gwen Stefani sues Forever 21 and starts a trend
We can’t say for sure, but we have to imagine Stefani’s feeling hella good these days knowing she’s in good company when it comes to famous legal battles against the retailer. Since filing her suit in 2007, she’s been joined by a slew of designers, manufacturers, and even former employees who claim Forever 21 has done them wrong. The same year Gwen drew the line in the legal sand, designers Diane von Fürstenberg and Anna Sui filed suits of their own, claiming Forever 21 blatantly copied their designs.
In 2012, after filing a suit claiming infringement of her original ‘Chief’ prints, designer Mara Hoffman settled with Forever 21 out of court. But Hoffman’s battle didn’t end there. Apparently third time’s the charm, since Hoffman had to file two more lawsuits, one in 2012 and another in 2017, when her designs were yet again copped by the fast-fashion retailer. Athletic apparel brands PUMA and adidas also found themselves entangled in legal cases against Forever 21 in 2017. In an unexpected twist, the retailer filed a lawsuit of their own against adidas that same year, claiming the brand was “bullying” them after being sent two cease-and-desist letters over products they insisted violated no laws.
Once a copycat, always a copycat
We all learn from our mistakes, but if recent lawsuits are any indication, Forever 21 still has a few lessons to learn. After turning down an endorsement detail with the struggling retailer, superstar Ariana Grande filed a $10 million lawsuit against them in 2019 for posting photos on Instagram that she felt hit a little too close to the style in her “7 Rings” music video, claiming they even went so far as to hire a Grande-lookalike to pose for the photos in question. Looks like Stefani really is a trendsetter!