Victoria’s Secret Stores Inc. and its parent company, Limited Brands Inc., are being accused of breaching a 2001 agreement and deliberately selling cheaper “knockoffs” to unsuspecting consumers, in a $15 million lawsuit filed by Zephyrs, a former major hosiery supplier to the specialty chain.
Joseph Gioconda, principal of Manhattan-based Gioconda Law Group PLLC, which is representing Zephyrs, said a complaint was unsealed Friday in federal court in Columbus, Ohio, where Victoria’s Secret is headquartered. The complaint alleges that Victoria’s Secret is misleading consumers by selling less expensive legwear while deliberately using images of Zephyrs-designed legwear on packaging and in-store displays.
“Victoria’s Secret changed the product in the packaging but didn’t change anything else except Made in Canada on the back of the package. It used to say Made in Italy,” said Gioconda, noting that Zephyrs has a longtime relationship with Italian contractors for quality control.
Gioconda said Victoria’s Secret has sold “at least $120 million worth of Zephyrs-designed product throughout all 50 states, through the Victoria’s Secret chain of retail stores, the Victoria’s Secret print catalogue and the popular Victoria’s Secret Web site” since 2001.
“We are planning to proceed and will be serving papers to Victoria’s Secret and The Limited as well as other Victoria’s Secret entities. They will have 21 days to respond,” said Gioconda.
The main points of contention in the complaint include a breach of contract — which includes VS directly contacting Zephyrs’ suppliers; unfair competition, and false advertising in violation of federal and state consumer protection laws, including consumer fraud in California, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Ohio. The suit also seeks corrective advertising and a recall of the accused products that are alledgedly rendered in cheaper lace trims, irregular borders, missing heel reinforcements and less durable construction. The products in question include Lace Top Fish Net Stockings, Fish Net Thigh-Highs With Backseam and a Signature Stripe Thigh-High With Bows. Suggested retail prices average from $16 to $18.
Officials at Victoria’s Secret could not be reached for comment Friday.
Debra Mackinnon, owner and president of Spring Lake, N.J.-based Zephyrs, said she became aware there was a “problem” when a German lace supplier notified her of a business change in early 2011.
“I contacted them [VS] by e-mail and had a conference call with senior management, but they never called back....When I was in Chicago in March 2012, I went to a Victoria’s Secret store and picked up a package and saw it said Made in Canada. The product inside was drastically different than what [the image] was on the package,” claimed Mackinnon. She added that the merchandise in question was still on VS store shelves last week.
Mackinnon — who noted that the suit was originally filed on Aug. 10 but efforts to discuss a settlement over the following two weeks proved to be fruitless — is currently sitting on more than $100,000 of merchandise for which Victoria’s Secret has not sanctioned for delivery.
She claimed the reason is because she won’t sign a new master sourcing agreement with Victoria’s Secret in which Zephyrs surrenders all of its intellectual property to Victoria’s Secret.
“Over the past year-and-a half, the Victoria’s Secret in-house folks have been pressuring me to sign a new MSA where we would have to hand over all of our intellectual property, designs and patents...including patents on some other designs,” said Mackinnon. She alleged that the new MSA includes a non-compete clause that would keep Zephyrs from selling to third parties including itself — which essentially would put Zephyrs out of business.
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye