NEW YORK — Girl Mania Inc. thinks that Susan O’Toole took more than fond memories with her when she left the firm for a job at Wet Seal last year.
This story first appeared in the May 13, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Last week, the firm filed a $10 million lawsuit against Wet Seal Inc. and Zutopia for trade dress infringement and unfair competition and, alleging breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets, also named O’Toole as a defendant. The lawsuit was filed on Friday in federal district court in Santa Ana, Calif.
Girl Mania said in court papers that it hired O’Toole in July 2000 as a consultant to help launch a new retail concept under the Girl Mania nameplate in Newport Beach around November 2001. The employment included a confidentiality and nondisclosure agreement. Wet Seal acquired the Zutopia brand name in 2001. O’Toole, the lawsuit said, left Girl Mania in April 2002 to become president of Wet Seal’s Zutopia division. She became president of the Wet Seal division four months later.
Zutopia and Girl Mania both sell apparel and accessories to preteen girls.
Court documents alleged that after she started her employment with Zutopia, Girl Mania began noticing changes to Zutopia stores, including changes in floor design, window displays and colors that were similar to Girl Mania’s look. Other changes included a heart logo that was similar to Girl Mania’s, as well as giving away seasonal promotional gifts, do-it-yourself makeup stations and catwalks in the stores. The lawsuit asserted that as a consultant, O’Toole was “privy to all of Girl Mania’s proprietary information, including but not limited to information concerning marketing strategies, market tests, business procedure and techniques, purchasing history, pricing information….”
Girl Mania is seeking $10 million in exemplary and punitive damages and a preliminary injunction.
Officials at Wet Seal did not return calls for comment by press time.