Ethik Clothing Plagiarizing Art for Pop-Up Promo? [Updated]

Posted on: April 2nd, 2012 at 6:09 am by

When we posted about pop-up newcomer Ethik Clothing Company at 243 Broome Street (aka 77 Ludlow) last week, little did we know there was a storm of controversy surrounding these purveyors of urban styles. Numerous readers chimed in about the company’s alleged, err, unethical practices which incited a comment war. Ethik is being accused of flagrantly plagiarizing the work of Berlin-based artist Jennifer Osborne to promote the brand. There’s little doubt after checking these photos.

Most vocal in the ongoing argument is HandyGirl, a performance artist and environmental advocate. She sent in the following:

Photo Credit: Jennifer Osborne

There is an artist named Jennifer Osborne, who produced a body of work for an exhibition. The show was called “Wig Out” and is quite well known. The subject matter for this show revolved around photographic images of the most marginalized women in Vancouver. These women live in the downtown east side, and have had extremely difficult lives. Many are drug addicted and/or prostitutes. Jennifer got to know them and developed trusting relationships with them. With this level of trust, the women agreed to have their photographs taken for the exhibition.

When an artist produces work, they own the copyright and are protected by law. For an individual or business to use an artists work, they need permission from the artist. Ethik Clothing Company took one of Jennifer Osborne’s images from her website and altered it. They then used it in advertising for their clothing line. This is blatent copyright infringement.

The image they stole was of a woman who has very clearly been the victim of violence. Ethik made posters of this image and plasterd New York City with them. Neither the artist nor the subject gave permission.

I find it disgusting that Ethik could do such a thing. What is even more unbelievable is that Ethik refuses to publicly acknowledge what they have done and apologize. Anyone who brings this up on the internet (i.e. Facebook) has their post deleted and they are blocked by Ethik from further comments. Additionally, when someone mentions the theft, they are called names and the issue is dismissed as unimportant.

It is my opinion that this company needs to take responsibility. I keep returning to the woman in the image. She has rights and she is being exploited for what? the sale of a few t-shirts?

The entire thing is disturbing.

UPDATE: Ethik responded with the following…

The image was taken off a 3rd party link that had no link, ownership, or claim to who it belonged to. We simply thought this was a public image and that it was available for use. Little did we know it was the work of an artist. we DID NOT take it for her website.  Also we have apologized to the artist several times and have agreed to halt posting anymore up and taking the flyer of our website which we have done. The flyer was posted in a few places in the LES area, so to say it was posted all over NYC is a little extreme.

Ethik Clothing is at 243 Bowery until next Sunday, April 8.

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  • Jackie Alperson

    “Little did we know it was the work of an artist”

    HAHAHAHAHA Where did they think it came from?  Just fell out of the sky?

  • VnVx

    Sounds like a honest mistake, since they stopped posting up more, and took it of their website. I think its just a misunderstand between two parties, it seems that some people are just trying to blow it out of proportion. 

  • Beattie

    This company has been mean-spirited about how they handled the situation. Even if it was an honest mistake, they could have been honorable and apologized properly instead of insulting everyone who had something to say about it. Most people know that images on the internet are not free for the taking. The company markets themselves as having their own photographer and producing clothing that is all about what they see in New York. The photo they used was taken in Vancouver, Canada. I think that anyone with common sense would know that an image of an abused woman should not be used to advertise their company.

    The response from the company falls tragically short of a real apology. Ignorance is not a defense!

  • Lovinlifehehehe

    Ethik is just full of drug dealers trying to get into the clothing business. They will all get arrested eventually!

  • Yepheisright

    I live in NY, Manhattan to be exact. I know all of these kids. They are truly just drug dealers that think they are bad ass!

    • k2motion22

      I am very close friends with the owners of Ethik. If you actually know them then you would see that these guys are nothing like whats being portrayed. Before you start trying to ruin their hard work and reputation, give them a chance to work on their mistakes and prove themselves. They have a true passion for this and I would hate to see it all collapse over a misunderstanding. It bothers me that my friends can apologize to the artist and still get this much hate. 

  • Ethik

    As soon as Jennifer emailed us about the problem at hand, we emailed an extended apology to her and her subject. We regret and feel bad about what we did but it was entirely unintentional. This is no excuse, but it justifies the reasoning behind it. We have gone around taking the posters down as best we can to find them all,  and have no connections to the image any longer. No where on the internet besides these types of blog posts is Ethik and Jennifer’s work coninciding. We did see that some of our “like page fans” on Facebook had responded in very childish ways and we talked to them about that issue because we didn’t understand why they were responding back as if they were part of our company. This did nothing but ruin our reputation even more to have these kids who don’t know what they are talking about try and resolve the issue.  The comments were deleted off the page because public defamation of our brand shouldn’t have happened if we had already apologized to the artists and her subject.  We failed to immediately publicly apologize because we didn’t want to stir up this issue with all of our fans. We wanted to handle the issue with Jennifer, and no one else. Now, it has turned into this massive issue that it should never have turned into. We have acknowledged that what we did was wrong and we are sorry for what occurred, and I hope this acts as another public statement.  

    The email here is one of about 20 and the others are not even here to see what else we had to say. Ask Jennifer for a copy of our apology. Its the first email we sent to her. As a young clothing company there are mistakes that happen and mistakes involving credit seem to happen often and are typically unintentional. This case was unintentional and uneducated. It will surely not happen again, as we are students trying to turn a hobby and small business into a possible career. We have learned from our mistake and hope that negative publicity like this doesn’t detrimentally affect our business or current pop up shop. I also hope that we remain talking about facts at hand rather than make wild accusations to ruin our image, because the article and comments below do not portray who we actually are at all.

     Co-Founder of Ethik Clothing

    • sw

      You should issue a PUBLIC apology to people who were offended by the use of this image and the exploitation of the subject in it.

  • Sw

    Ethik should issue a public explanation and apology and not just one to the artist. There should be a public explanation instead of what they actually provided us: From the founders of Ethik: “that photos fucking dumb whoever this no name photographer is lucky she got any publicity”
    This is not a misunderstanding, what they did is illegal and they are lucky that there is no lawsuit. They are ruining their own reputation, we are not ruining it for them.

    • Ethik

      I am one of the owners of Ethik, Chris Jennings, and I never said this. Find me the post that says my name next to that disgusting quote. Please do this. We would never have said this!!!!! Believe what you want to believe, but I think you are either making things up to ruin our reputation, or are mistaking our comments for dumb comments that maybe someone wrote claiming to be us. Whoever said that is a complete jackass, and knows nothing about how we actually treated this issue. I wish Jennifer would be public about how we apologized. I also publicly acknowledged and apologized as soon as I personally could. It has now become a massive misunderstanding and I am not sure what else to do, because I, as a ember of the company, have apologized for what occurred and do not know what other steps I can take to make people move on.


      Ethik Clothing

      • Hollenb

        No one is “making up” those words. I remember reading them on your facebook page, before you deleted all the critical comments.

        • Ethik

          They were said by a “fan” of ethik from the like page. I don’t know why a true fan would get involved and blatanly be utterly ridiculous when facing an issue like this. These were never said by the owners and I wish they had never been said.. Confusion and degrading misrepresentation messed this all up. 

  • NlGGAZ

    ETHIK raped my father and killed my mother. Boo ETHIK!

  • HandyGirl

    i am happy to read that ethik is taking
    some responsibility for their illegal use of an artists’ work. clearly, this
    company was neither aware of the law nor the potential for harmful


    as a designer, artist and educator, i think
    ethik’s business idea is strong. they will probably do quite well as they learn
    and grow. having a controversy like this happen so early in their company’s
    life is an extremely valuable experience. if ethik is smart (which i think
    they are) they will recognize the err of their ways and never make this kind of
    mistake again.


    some points to chew on:

    the instant the public began to voice their concerns, ethik would
    have been wise to address the issue. ethik wanted to work this out
    privately with the artist, but the reality is: they used the image in the
    public domain. ethik’s choice to immediately delete every comment from the
    public, only served to outrage people even more.
    the message i posted on their facebook page, which stayed up for about
    30 seconds, was to point out the illegal use of the image and provide a
    link to jennifer osbourne’s website. i was informative and polite. ethik could
    have easily sent me (and others who acted in a similar way) an email to
    let me know they were getting in touch with the artist and would soon be
    releasing an apology. ethik chose to just keep deleting posts, which made
    the company appear dismissive and arrogant.
    this controversy arose from the illegal use of an artists’
    work. it has been implied that some people might be trying to damage their
    business. ethik is 100% responsible. blaming the public is uncool and inaccurate.
    quite frankly, i had never heard of this company and would therefore have
    no reason to trash them. ironically, i recognized osborne’s work the
    instant i saw it their ad. having lived for 10 years in vancouver, i am all too aware of the
    struggles faced by women in the downtown east side.
    it is not the responsibility of the artist to publicly release
    ethik’s apology. it is not the responsibility of the public to contact the
    artist and ask to read emails from ethik. wishing for the artist/public to
    do this, does not make it so. apology, compensation, damage control, explanation,
    rectification, etc, lie exclusively in the hands of ethik. if this were my
    company, i’d have issued a statement to the press – a risky yet responsible
    the bulk of the outrage happened on facebook. a lack of regard
    for complaints from the public fuelled this situation. some comments on
    the event page appear to be written by a representative of ethik, yet
    ethik claims they are not (thankfully, as they are really gross). ethik states
    that they talked to the kids who made the posts, but ethik did not remove
    them. why? is any press good press, even if it’s ugly and false?
    from a business perspective, how is an image of an abused woman
    in a (pardon the politically incorrect phrase) “wife beater” shirt,
    favourable for this company in any way?
    some handy advice: hire a photographer. create your own brand
    with your own images. question everything. good luck.




    anne pickard-vaandering is a canadian artist
    and educator whose work spans
    drawing, fashion, installation, mixed media, performance, sculpture, textiles
    and written word. she has been teaching and exhibiting since the
    1980s and is known to many as HandyGirl, an environmental advocate and