The story starts out sweetly enough: Author Camilla Lundsten wrote a series of children’s books about a plucky little elephant named Littlephant. Next, she collaborated with a small Swedish retailer called Lindex to create a line of Littlephant-themed products, ranging from clothes to baby blankets to bags for new moms.
But late last month, Lundsten was browsing H&M's online site, as you do, when she discovered something that looked all too familiar.
In the H&M kids' section, a cute little outfit — a pair of harlequin leggings and a tunic-style tank with a rabbit peeking out from a pocket, also dressed in a harlequin print — proved almost identical, aside from tweaks in size and color, to a Littlephant outfit that was sold last Christmas. Lundsten tried to get a response from H&M but was unable to reach them. So she handled the issue 2013 style by posting an incriminating photo on Instagram, saying "[doesn't H&M] have any creativity of their own?" and asking sympathetic Instagrammers to show support by liking the image.
According to the Littlephant website, over a thousand people responded within two hours of the photo being posted. Lundsten called H&M and was "bounced around" for a while, according to the Wall Street Journal, while the story gained traction, with Swedish press picking up on the scandal. (H&M is a Swedish company.) Finally, Lundsten emailed the CEO, and this time, she got through. The CEO, Karl-Johan Persson, apologized to her, and the products were pulled from the shelves.
This is just another battle scar for the infamously copycat-happy retail giant. In January 2012, they copied a billboard by artist Tori LaConsay from Atlanta, Ga., turning the billboard's message into a doormat. In May 2013, they irritated the fashion industry by copying much bigger names — a crop top from Balenciaga, a lion sweatshirt from Kenzo, and a slouchy black dress with mesh v-neck insert from Céline.
But when knockoffs like these are brought to light, the shocked publicity always helps the little guy to win — or at least break even. Lundsten got her apology, but she's not done. She figures that, had H&M gone after her designs through the appropriate channels, she would have been compensated for them. So she's after royalties.