Posted at 11:03 AM ET, 05/27/2011

Urban Outfitters vs. independent artist: With help from Twitter, artist wins


On the left is Urban Outfitters’ I Heart Destination necklace line. On the right is independent artist tru.che’s United/World of Love necklace line. (Screengrab from Stevie Koerner’s tumblr )
On Wednesday, a small-time Chicago jewelry artist wrote a post on her Tumblr that said Urban Outfitters had copied her most popular line of necklaces — design, name, description and all.

By Thursday, Twitter had latched on to the story, and to Urban Outfitters, with a vigor not often seen on the social networking site.

Users rebuked the clothing store for ripping off an independent artist once again so that they could mass produce the item and sell it back to customers at high prices. In the photo above, the similarities between Urban Outfitter’s I Heart Destination necklace line and independent artist Stevie Koerner of tru.che’s United/World of Love line can be seen.

Urban Outfitters soon sent back a tweet that said they were looking into the matter (see below), and blogger Amber Karnes, who first spread the story on Twitter, wrote that Urban Outfitters was going to pull the necklaces from all stores immediately. The link to the I Heart Destination line on Urban Outfitters’ Web site went dead.

A request for comment from Urban Outfitters was not immediately responded to.

Koerner of tru.che had originally written on her Tumblr:

“One of my lovely customers sent me a message today...My heart sank a little bit.  The World/United States of Love line that I created is one of the reasons that I was able to quit my full-time job... I understand that they are a business, but it’s not cool to completely rip off an independent designer’s work.”

But by Friday, she had little to worry about. Amber Karnes’ tweet, which had a link to Koerner’s Tumblr post, was retweeted hundreds of times. The phrase ‘Urban Outfitters’ soon became a trending topic in the U.S, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Twitter users barraged the Urban Outfitters Facebook page with criticism. And Twitter users started to call the situation a “PR Nightmare” and a “smackdown.”

Here is a timeline of the tweets:

I think it's time to boycott Urban Outfitters. They have done this to so many independent artists. NOT OK. http://bit.ly/kvbMdtless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Urban Outfitters continues to steal from independent artists and sell it back people at a premium. http://tinyurl.com/3f85v5jless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Hey guys, we see your tweets regarding the I Heart Destination necklace. Please know that our accessories buying team is looking into this.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Power of social media for independent artists: Urban Outfitters shamed into removing cribbed items from site in 1 day. http://goo.gl/mV6BGless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

By  |  11:03 AM ET, 05/27/2011

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company