Major Street Artists Sue Clothing Brand Guess , Accusing Them of Stealing Their Work

For the second time in recent memory, street artists have accused the clothing brand Guess of swiping their intellectual property, this time for a line of “graffiti inspired” clothing.

The suit, which was filed in California’s Central District and first reported Monday by Hyperallergicwas filed by the Danish street artist Patrick Griffin, whose brother Sean tagged under the name “Nexst” and achieved no small amount of attention from New York’s spray-paint and streetwear underground and was called “the most successful Houston artist that most outside of the graffiti world have never heard of” by the Houston Press.

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Banksy has unveiled a new piece of art work at the intersection of Southampton Way and Commercial Way in Peckham, south east London, which shows three planes perched on a stop sign. Picture date: Friday December 22, 2023. (Photo by Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images)

The crux of the suit comes from Guess’s alleged use of both Sean Griffin’s tag and the tag of another street artist, Robin Ponn, who signed work as “Bates”. The tags appear to be interspersed with a mishmash of streetwear iconography: cassette tapes, street signs, graffiti, and, of course, a spraypainted version of the Guess logo.

According to Hyperallergic, Macy’s, which was one of the many vendors selling the graffiti inspired clothing and named in the lawsuit, has pulled the product from their website, though the line is still available on Amazon.com and the shirts in question can still be found online.

“GUESS has inexplicably, and without notice, let alone consent, prominently splashed [the artist’s] work across their apparel in a transparent effort to lend credibility and an air of urban cool to their apparel by coopting the Plaintiffs’ special combination of graffiti style and street art bona fides,” the complaint reads.

Jeff Gluck, a lawyer for the artists told Hyperallergic that Guess’s use of the tags was “just mechanical, verbatim reproductions of the actual tags, the actual artist signatures.” 

In 2022, the most famous, and anonymous, street artist, Banksy, accused Guess of illegally using his work and, in a since deleted Instagram post, suggested his 11.5 million followers should shoplift from a London Guess location on Regent Street. “They’ve helped themself to my artwork without asking, how can it be wrong for you to do the same to their clothes?” the post read.

At the time, Guess said the Banksy capsule collection was “inspired by” the artist’s work. In reality, the collection was a partnership with a company called Brandalised, “whose mission is to offer Banksy fans affordable graffiti collectibles.”

“The graffiti of Banksy has had a phenomenal influence that resonates throughout popular culture,” Guess Chief Creative Officer Paul Marciano said in the press release. “This new capsule collection with Brandalised is a way for fashion to show its gratitude.”

Brandalised sells greeting cards emblazoned with Banksy’s “Flower Thrower” image and which tried, and succeeded, in convincing the European Union Intellectual Property Office that Banksy was not the ‘unquestionable owner’ of his works. Others have tried to argue a similar case, but without much success.

It’s likely the case will last a while. Gluck told Hyperallergic that this lawsuit could spark action among the street art community. “Several other artists have come forward since this lawsuit was filed saying that they have some graffiti and some tags on Guess shirts as well,” he said.

Guess did not respond to a request for comment at time of publication.

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