Urban Outfitters Knocks Off Another Indie Designer

Copycat emporium Urban Outfitters has selected its latest victim: Chicago-based jewelry designer Stevie Koerner. Koerner told me she has been making her line of jewelry shaped like countries and U.S. states, with a cut-out heart in each, for two and a half years. She produces her designs in silver and bamboo, and they range in cost from $26 for a bamboo "I Heart Wisconsin" necklace to $100 for a pair of silver "I Heart Minnesota" cufflinks.

Urban Outfitters must have appreciated Koerner's oblique way of expressing fond feelings for a given place via good design, because the company is now selling $19 mixed-metal "I Heart [Destination]" necklaces. They look virtually identical to Koerner's. "Wear your locale love," reads Urban Outfitters' copy. "Delicate cable chain necklace topped with a pendant in the shape of your favorite place and a tiny cutout heart." Pictured above left is Urban Outfitters' version; on the right is Koerner's original.

This is far from the first time Urban Outfitters, the Philadelphia-based multinational corporation that boasts 382 stores and which made $38.5 million during just the first three months of this year, has lifted an idea from a much smaller designer. (The company, like most that incorporate knock-offs into their M.O., takes advantage of legal loopholes that allow certain kinds of design piracy, and sensibly preys on designers who are too under-capitalized to be likely to sue anyway.) Last year, the Brooklyn Paper ran an article after several jewelry designers who sell at the Brooklyn Flea noticed pieces very similar to their own were turning up for sale at Urban Outfitters. Prior to that, the company ripped off a t-shirt design. And another t-shirt design. There is a blog, now sadly defunct, that used to track Urban Outfitters' various offenses against intellectual property. (It was aptly named Urban Counterfeiters.)

Not Cool Urban Outfitters, Not Cool [I Make Shiny Things