Monday’s Instagram dispute between artist Brad Troemel and designer Vika Gazinskaya hit an impasse Tuesday.
At issue is Troemel’s allegation that the Russian-born designer drew inspiration from his “Freecaching” art for her spring 2018 collection without giving him credit during a Vogue preview last week.
While Troemel suggested Gazinskaya donate the money she “would’ve spent suing” him over his allegations and the money she’ll “end up making from his work” to charity, her legal team has other ideas for the time being. The artist said via Instagram Monday, “The world doesn’t need more frivolous legal defenses or stolen fashion lines, but some people do need protection and clothes so why not donate the money you would’ve spent suing me and the money you’ll end up making from my work on your dresses to a good charity? How does the American Refuge Committee sound? Charitywatch.org gives them an A+. Whadya say?”
In an e-mail Tuesday night, Gazinskaya said she was inspired by many images and concepts, and “the inspiration was not exclusive to the Mondrian/Richter-style, Rubik’s Cube/children’s blocks/pixel idea that he used in his artwork.” She also noted that she “acknowledged instantly” she had seen the image as part of her idea-gathering process, which “did not allow me to know with specificity who created all the various images.”
Gazinskaya noted that the item “from which he states I profited greatly is a sample that was not on sale in any stores, and it will not be produced as buyers found it of low interest.”
Describing the suggestion that any donations should be made as “troubling,” Gazinskaya said her attempts to listen to Troemel’s claims and “ensure he understood the errors of his beliefs and statements have turned into callous online bullying and attacks on the entire brand and misogynistic slurs about me personally.”
After receiving a cease and desist e-mail from the designer’s attorney Eleanor Lackman, a partner at Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard, Monday, Troemel Instagrammed his response. “Where do you begin with this hilarious, tragic, rich person temper tantrum scare tactic of an e-mail? You can’t defame someone by Instagramming a fact. It’s not my opinion Vika copied my work, she publicly admitted it.”
The artist e-mailed WWD Tuesday, “Just post the donation screen grab to Instagram. No apology necessary. I’ve got Adderall to do and can’t wait for this to be over so I can go back to making art.”
After Troemel claimed Gazinskaya copied his work, the designer posted, “Actually, it is too obvious to ‘hide’ it. So, it is an inspiration. And I can use the art in my clothes as much as I want.”
In her statement Tuesday night, the designer said, “As Mr. Troemel may be unaware, Vika Gazinskaya is a small Russian fashion company and does not have unlimited funds. We are looking for and always wanted to find an amicable resolution to this issue, but in light of the ungentlemanly way in which he conducted himself, we asked him to kindly stop insulting and swearing directly and indirectly at my brand and on me on social media. When he would not stop, I asked a lawyer I have used for brand protection in the U.S. to ask him to please stop disparaging my brand and me and to please get in contact as soon as possible to discuss a constructive, positive resolution that would help bring the misunderstanding to a close. We have yet to hear back from Mr. Troemel but remain open to his willingness to listen to our side, understand the truth, and bring this issue to an amicable end.
Troemel told WWD Tuesday, “Fashion designers have an ongoing habit of ripping artists off by reducing their work to a decorative pattern for Katy Perry to wear while she’s dabbing on stage [an apparent reference to Moschino’s lawsuit with the street artist Rime]. The Internet is too effective at tracking this type of stuff down and art isn’t so far from fashion not to have tons of overlapping participants. The vibe seems to be ‘Sheesh, again?'”
In his social media rebuttal Monday, Troemel wrote,”The strength of appropriation as an artistic strategy is based on its acknowledgement of source material. To re-contextualize meaning requires — for the viewer and maker — acknowledging what the context was in the first place and how the source has been newly approached since. Jeff Koons isn’t claiming to have “invented” Hoover vacuums and sell them in Wal-Mart with the brand name crudely scratched off the side. In conclusion (lol), Vika, this is silly. You and your staff of lawyers were so worked up blocking online bullies all night you didn’t even spell my name correctly in your letter.”
Design inspiration and appropriation have been increasing in the news as of late. Kendall and Kylie Jenner are challenging a photographer’s infringement lawsuit that claims the sisters used a photo of late rapper Tupac Shakur and other copyrighted images that were used for Kendall + Kylie T-shirts that have since been pulled. The duo also received a cease-and-desist letter from the estate of The Doors frontman Jim Morrison for using his likeness in another design. And Viktor + Rolf shot down a claim by Terrence Zhou, who had applied for an internship with the company, that his portfolio inspired the spring 2018 couture show.