We’ve seen it before and, tragically, we will see it again. If you’ve followed Diet Prada at any point in your Instagram journey you’ll be aware of the terrible and inhumane rip-offs of young, independent designers’ work by big, bad-for-the-environment fashion brands from Missguided to Pretty Little Things. 

Today’s focus is $66 billion Chinese fast-fashion brand Shein. Shein is being sued by three designers – Krista Perry, Larissa Martinez and Jay Baron – for allegedly stealing independent artists’ works “over and over again, as part of a long and continuous pattern of racketeering.”

The designers claim in their lawsuit that Shein’s “design ‘algorithm’ could not work without generating the kinds of exact copies that can greatly damage an independent designer’s career—especially because Shein’s artificial intelligence is smart enough to misappropriate the pieces with the greatest commercial potential.” What isn’t clear is that although the lawsuit highlights Shein’s use of artificial intelligence, it’s not exactly clear how Shein employs AI in its design process. The firm does not appear to be using AI to literally generate the alleged copies.

Alongside the AI offence, the lawsuit also alleges that Shein’s practices violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The law was enacted in 1970 and was first used against the American Mafia.

Seeking a jury trial, the designers say in their suit that the fast-fashion giant’s “misconduct is committed not by a single entity, but by a de-facto association of entities.” They claim that RICO is relevant to this case because it was created to “address the misconduct of culpable individual cogs in a larger enterprise.”

Shein is a fashion giant and no stranger to allegations that it habitually screws over artists, workers and the environment. The company has previously copped to violating local labour laws. Yet what is so baffling is that still, amid these brutal reports, Shein has attempted to market itself as an environmentally minded and socially conscious firm. Is it genius marketing or idiot consumers? Or genius marketing and clueless influencers projecting onto even more clueless consumers?… Honestly, this whole depresses me, where did art go?… I’m out. 

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