Cara Delevingne under fire for lifting design from queer feminist “The Future is Female” sweatshirt

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A few weeks ago, St. Vincent (nee Annie Clark) and Cara Delevingne helped popularize a lesbian-made feminist sweatshirt purchased from Otherwild, a Los Angeles-based store that sells wares made by women and queer-identified artists. Annie bought the sweatshirts (reading The Future is Female) from Otherwild’s pop-up shop at Killjoy’s Castle, a lesbian feminist haunted house set up in West Hollywood throughout October, and she and her model/actress girlfriend have been photographed in the shirts since, with a few publications recognizing they originated from Otherwild.

Over the weekend, Cara posted an Instagram photo telling fans that she would now be selling sweatshirts with the same slogan and typeface, donating the proceeds to a charity called Girl Up. But what was missing was any sort of acknowledgment of where the originals came from. After an initial reaching out from Otherwild and owner Rachel Berks, Cara edited her post to include a thank you to the shop and the artists behind the shirt’s design, but has not responded to or changed her plan to sell her own.

 

The history behind The Future is Female is one deeply rooted in lesbian feminism. The slogan came from Labris Books, the first-ever women’s bookstore in New York City in 1972, owned by Jane Lurie and Marizel Rios. Famous lesbian folk musician Alix Dobkin was pictured in the shirt in 1974 (photographed by artist/activist Liza Cowan), and Otherwild was given permission to recreate the slogan for an original design in 2015 after seeing the photo on Kelly Rakowski‘s h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y. 

 

Rachel released this statement on behalf of Otherwild, explaining her sadness over Cara’s decision to recreate her own version instead of working together with the originators.

Otherwild’s redesign and reissue of the FIF tees and buttons is protected under copyright law, which mandates that any reproduction of an existing known public work must be altered at least 20% from the original. If model/actress Cara Delevingne wanted to sell my line, she would need to wholesale them from Otherwild, and because we donate 25% of our line’s proceeds to Planned Parenthood, Delevingne’s ethical practice would benefit not only our woman-owned small business but would also serve as a significant donation to PP. Delevingne could also choose not to wholesale from Otherwild and create her own design of the slogan on clothing to sell. But Delevingne’s choice to lift and manufacture Otherwild’s design, claiming it as her own to sell with an undisclosed charitable offering, is indefensible. Her actions ironically counter the very message of the slogan “The Future Is Female”, and it’s confounding that she would do this to a small queer feminist-owned business after purchasing the product from us just a few weeks ago. Although under pressure, Delevingne has changed the line’s attribution several times in the past 24 hrs., she has not yet offered to wholesale from us nor cease and desist blatantly copying and selling our designs.

Cara wearing Otherwild’s sweatshirt in OctoberCara Delevingne Sighting In ParisPhoto by Marc Piasecki/GC Images

Even more frustrating, fans of Cara’s are attacking Otherwild for standing behind their shirts and its herstory. Considering Cara, as a woman and as a queer woman, is a part of the greater community, it’s even more hurtful that she would choose to bypass the small business she received the shirt from and benefit anyone else (charity or otherwise) from it. As of press time, she has sold more than 1050 sweatshirts and will continue selling them for the next 12 days.

We’re hoping Cara will do the right thing and understand why what she’s doing is problematic, and that fans of the model/actress can realize that even celebrities are imperfect people who sometimes make poor choices. No one is saying Cara Delevingne is a bad person, but what she’s doing isn’t right, and hopefully she will come to see that. Women and queer-owned business are already struggling to stay afloat in today’s big box store-dominated world; supporting them is of the utmost importance. Perhaps that was part of the reason Annie purchased the sweatshirts in the first place.

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