Image: Screengrab, Sally Hansen

I’m not saying that Sally Hansen is ripping off well-established Korean nail artist Eun Kyung Park after allegedly consulting her for a “collaboration” and then releasing a “K-Design” line of nail stickers which are low-grade versions of Park’s work. But if that were true, the story would look exactly like the one reported by Racked on Thursday.

Park, owner of Seoul nail studio Unistella, reached out to Racked after Sally Hansen, of get-what-you-pay for department store nail products, announced a new series of three nail sticker lines which use concepts identical to hers. She claims that the company reached out to her for a “collaboration” in a series of emails, and then dropped the thread.

Months later, Sally Hansen announced their “K-Design” collection:

“This limited-edition collection captures the style and essence of Korean Beauty, which has garnered over 1M posts on Instagram under #KBeauty.”

Sally Hansen even admitted in a statement to Racked that the stickers (“Glass,” “Wire,” and “Diamond”) were “inspired” by Park’s shattered glass, wire, and diamond nail designs which were featured in various outlets including Vogue, Teen Vogue, InStyle, and Refinery29 (Fashion called them “Internet-breaking”). Sally Hansen uses the word “inspired,” in the sense that I am inspired by my roommate’s decision to eat, so I will be microwaving her leftovers imminently because she didn’t come up with the concept of take-out, therefore I am entitled to the food product. They write:

As a top nail design influencer, Eun Kyung was certainly an inspiration, as she is for the entire nail art world. But she was not the only, nor the first, source of excitement around these trends that have more than 125,000 references on Instagram alone, with posts dating as far back as 2012.

Advertisement

They do not mention their other excitement sources.

In her Instagram post, Park provides various side-by-sides:

Advertisement

Park writes:

To you, those ‘basic’ wire hearts & lips, and shattered glass patterns were no big deal. Those designs to me are part of my life’s work - 18 years of living and breathing nail art.

The dismissive words you’ve said to me about the designs I’ve created were careless, which saddens me because you have worked with and employ a number of nail artists - you know firsthand how much goes into the creative process.

You approached me last year to propose a collaboration, which was incredibly exciting as I thought this could perhaps be the beginning of a true partnership .

Instead, decisions were simply made without my involvement. I found out after the fact that #glassnail and #wirenail designs were being sold without my knowledge. I’m a nail artist based in Korea and I’m not familiar with US law. I know that design is difficult to trademark. What I do have is my integrity as an artist and the knowledge that I am the originator of these designs. You’ve broken my heart but you will not break my spirit.

Advertisement

It’s a familiar story; designers have spotted their work at Zara, Forever21, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Kylie Cosmetics (multiple times). But if Sally Hansen were using Park’s work as the primary and only source for profit and then labelling it Korea-inspired, it would be so flagrant.

Park is unfamiliar with American trademark law and at the moment does not have plans to sue Sally Hansen, but bad Google juju is coming their way.

Sally Hansen was not immediately available for comment.

Update: Sally Hansen has returned our request for comment with their official statement:

Recently, we launched a K-Beauty Design Kit, a trend-driven product we’re proud of and one that has been in the making for quite some time. Any time we develop a new product, we look for emerging trends and at many sources. We consult third-party trend forecasts, work with internal and external creative teams, seek the advice of suppliers, and employ extensive social listening methodologies. As a top nail design influencer, Eun Kyung was certainly an inspiration, as she is for the entire nail art world. But she was not the only, nor the first, source of excitement around these trends that have more than 125,000 references on Instagram alone, with posts dating as far back as 2012. We admire Eun Kyung’s talent and are sorry if she feels anything less than our admiration for her work.