How big brands are stealing ideas and capitalizing on small designers

It is the plagiarism of the fashion world and quite the unfair fight: enormous fast-fashion companies are stealing the creative ideas and designs from independent designer start-ups. But what role does social media play in this fight?

The Problem

Big fast-fashion brands are often accused of stealing designs from smaller, independent designers, without any credit or compensation. Targets in particular seem to be women and black designers. Brands notorious for these practices are, for example fast-fashion brands, PrettyLittleThing, Fashion Nova, Boohoo, Shein, Zara but also luxury brands such as Gucci and Guess.

Tweet by designer @MariamaDiallo_

Social media has made it easier than ever for these brands to ‘get inspired’ by these independent creatives. The designs are just a few tags and scrolls away. Many small brands use Instagram to post pictures of their designs in order to show what they have got to offer with the goal to attract customers. Unfortunately, these pictures also attract idea-stealing thieves in the form of fast-fashion companies. Sadly, since the designs are not protected by any type of law, it’s an easy steal.

“Social media has given established companies the blueprints to the creations of the young and innovative.”

– Sam Lack

The positive contribution of social media platforms is that they enable easy exposure through the possibility of easy sharing of a story or post. For example, Instagram stories can be used to easily spread images of the stolen design and tagging the fast-fashion brand. This claim then, in turn, can be easily shared and gone viral. On one hand, this self-created justice increases exposure for the actual designer who should be credited for the original design. On the other hand, enough shares of such type of post also create pressure to hopefully change the ways of the brand who has stolen the design. If the brand does not change its ways, then at least people are made aware of the problem and might want to choose to purchase the product from the original designer.

“Celebrities issue ‘cease and desist’ letters to independent creatives as an attempt to silence them.”

– Bashirat Oladele

Unfortunately, lawsuits against large fast-fashion brands are often pointless as small designers do not have the resources to fight a company that has infinite financial sources and oftentimes in-house lawyers. Oladele explains that “celebrities issue ‘cease and desist’ letters to these independent creatives as an attempt to silence them. It’s then difficult for these independent designers to challenge this because of the amount of support these brands receive.” Furtheremore, she explains that “Designs continue to be stolen unless trademarked by the designer, but this poses problems when many are unable to access lawyers and the funds needed to get this trademark.” Therefore, shaming the brand and calling them out on social media, especially when gone viral, is often the only way to get some kind of justice.

Luckily, an Instagram account by the name of @diet_prada has come to the rescue. The account posts the original and copycat from fashion items and tags the creator as well as the thief. By doing so, they contribute to spreading the word and applying some extra pressure on the kettle for the accused brand. What you as a reader can do to help? Share the stories and pictures and above all, make conscious choices of where you purchase your next addition to your wardrobe.

Post by instagram account @diet_prada


Lack, Sam. “Diet Prada: Fashion’s Only Hope in the World of Social Media.” STRIPE, STRIPE, 12 Nov. 2019,

Lieber, Chavie. “Fashion Brands Steal Design Ideas All the Time. and It’s Completely Legal.” Vox, Vox, 27 Apr. 2018,

Michie, Natalie. “Shein Stolen Designs: Fast Fashion Retailer Accused of Copying…again.” FASHION Magazine, 16 June 2021,

Morgan, Chloë. “Why Fast Fashion Is Accused of Copying Independent and Sustainable Brands.” The Vegan Review, 12 Apr. 2021,

Oladele, Bashirat. The Boar, 18 Aug. 2020,

Perlman, Matthew, et al. “How Big Fashion Brands Commonly Steal Designs and Get Away with It.” The Courtroom, 17 June 2021,