OPINION | Zara did the right thing by removing MaXhosa socks, but what next?

26 April 2018 - 10:38
Zara has launched an internal investigation into the copycat claims, but is that enough?
Zara has launched an internal investigation into the copycat claims, but is that enough?
Image: Via Instagram

Whether you have enough coins to spoil yourself at Zara or not, the retailing giant has left many South Africans angry after socks at its stores nationwide bore a striking resemblance to local fashion designer Maxhosa by Laduma's signature Xhosa-inspired collection.

It took a few days, but eventually Zara responded and said that besides launching an internal investigation, it would also be withdrawing the socks from its shelves and online stores.

But is that enough?

What are the consequences of a big brand "stealing" an idea?

Back in 2012 Woolworths faced a similar claim after a small KwaZulu-Natal based company, Frankie's, accused the retailer of copying its product line. The difference was Frankie's had approached Woolworths to sell its product in stores, but it claimed that Woolies instead produced a similar product to compete with it.

It was a long battle, but Frankie's held firm and laid a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which ruled against Woolworths.

Woolworths eventually bowed down and while it maintained it had not copied Frankie's, it did say that customer opinion and trust was important.

Frankie's CEO Mike Schmidt told Daily Maverick that the decision to take on Woolworths in a case that was dubbed a 'David and Goliath battle' was to protect the integrity of his brand.

"Our decision really has borne a result that other small businesses can take heart from and be inspired to challenge others.”

Laduma Ngxokolo is also not taking the matter lying down. He said his lawyers were already aware of the situation and would be laying criminal charges. He also said he would be returning all clothing he had purchased from the store.

Sure, Zara has done right by removing the socks. But the damage is done. As for the internal investigation, who is part of that? How does the process work? Who will watch the watchdog?

Is the right answer here to give Ngxokolo the proceeds from the socks that were sold? Is it to collaborate with him for a future range to be sold in store? That would be up to the designer who has worked hard to create a name for himself and solidify his brand in the fashion world.

Our role is to stand up to the Goliaths. It is up to you and me to call out big brands. We owe it to the Laduma's and Frankie's of the world. And we owe it to ourselves.

So don't stop. Ever. 

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