Update: We've amended the story with an official statement from Good American.
Khloé Kardashian, founder of denim label Good American, sent indie designer Destiney Bleu a cease and desist letter on June 4, two days after Bleu first took to Twitter to accuse the brand of purposefully buying her bedazzled bodysuits, jerseys, and intimates in order to rip them off.
The cease and desist letter, which Refinery29 received in a PDF from Destiney Bleu herself, states that the Good American items in question are not stolen. Rather, they are “inspired by the 1990’s [sic] and are evocative of clothing worn by Cher and others at that time.” Additionally, they claim that Kardashian and company were not aware of Destiney Bleu nor her work: “Good American’s design team had never heard your name and never saw your samples.”
However, Bleu also provided Refinery29 with a copy of her June 8 response to Khloé Kardashian and Good American, chock full of correspondence that appears to prove the Good American team had been in touch with her since November of 2016. That's when, according to the enclosed emails, Kardashian's assistant Alexa Okyle, reached out to ask for a lookbook. Shortly after, Bleu claims, Kardashian ordered a pair of fishnet tights and a custom jersey. And in the months that followed, she appeared to have ordered additional items (including a $925 order for 12 items and another $1,560 order for 16 items — including a pair of briefs bedazzled with “Tristan Thompson”).
The correspondence also shows Kardashian's then-stylist Monica Rose contacted Bleu in order to borrow black and nude bodysuits and bras, items that Bleu claims were later knocked off by Good American. In April, Bleu saw a photo of Kardashian wearing a similar-looking bodysuit on the set of a Good American campaign shoot, and reached out to Khloé’s team. She says she did not get a response.
Khloé Kardashian released a Good American video on Twitter on June 4, which shows the bodysuits in question. And while there are noticeable differences in sleeve lengths, the similarities of the starburst breast detailing are evident. Notably, the rhinestone bodysuit garments Cher wore in the ‘70s featured different styles of bedazzling, more similar to the lace-like naked dresses that the Kardashian family has favored in the past (Khloé herself wore a sheer dress by Yousef al Jasmi in 2016 that featured beadwork).
Kardashian's cease and desist demands Bleu’s claims are false, defamatory, and injurious to her reputation. They demand that Bleu issue a retraction, and that “[Bleu's] trolls stop attacking [Kardashian’s] social media channels.” In her response, Bleu attached a handful of comments from Twitter and Instagram calling out the similarities between the designs.
This is the second time this week that the Kardashian family has been accused of knocking off indie designers’ creations. Friday, Fashionista reported that Kylie Jenner’s new camouflage designs ripped off some by the brand PluggedNYC, which she had reportedly ordered and worn in the past. Strikingly, the buy-and-knock-off method is similar to what Bleu is claiming Khloé did with her work. Good American was also accused of ripping off indie label Made Gold in March.
Bleu is represented by The McArthur Law Firm in L.A., which has a history of defending independent creators against public figures, including Black Moon Cosmetics against Jeffree Starr and Manny Gutierrez; and Vlada Haggerty against Kylie Jenner. Bleu’s attorney Stephen Charles McArthur stated that Bleu has no plans at the moment to sue Good American for copyright and trademark infringement. Her defence statement also makes it clear that legally, Good American's designs are not intellectual property infringement.
"It is not illegal for Khloé to copy Destiney's designs — it is just tacky, disrespectful, and in bad taste... Destiney has a Constitutionally protected right to inform others that Khloé Kardashian has copied her designs. She will not silently abdicate that right in response to a frivolous, two-bit email from you threatening legal action... If you continue this meritless bullying and follow through with filing a lawsuit, we will welcome a court to set you straight."
“The Kardashians are like China when it comes to intellectual property — they care about their own IP, but not about others’ IP. They just don’t really have respect for other people’s designs,” says Julie Zerbo of The Fashion Law. While Zerbo is unsure whether Bleu would be able to countersue for trade dress protection, she seems to have a good defence that her tweets and claims about Khloé were not made with actual malice. “It’s worth noting that Bleu said that Khloé copied her, not that [Good American was] on the hook for copyright infringement or another type of infringement — there’s a big difference there. It seems that she honestly believes what she wrote. I don’t necessarily think that Khloé’s legal team will be able to show that Destiney was making the statement either recklessly or with actual knowledge of falsity.”
The team at Good American sent the following statement: "Ms Bleu’s claim that Good American and Khloe Kardashian copied or stole her designs is flagrantly false and little more than a cheap publicity stunt and an attempt by Ms Bleu to get her 15 minutes of fame. Ms. Bleu did not create the concept or design of a bodysuit with crystals – a fashion style that has been around for decades as evidenced by the fact that Cher has been wearing these styles for over 25 years. The Good American design team designed a range of eleven bodysuits and had never heard of Ms. Bleu or seen her designs. The letter from her lawyer — sent to the press for no legitimate reason — is outrageous, defamatory and misleading in the extreme. Good American will absolutely not stand for anyone trying to damage its reputation and plans to deal with this through the proper legal channels."
Bleu also made reference to the optics of a powerful, white woman like Kardashian profiting off the work of less-powerful Black women like herself: "There is also something deeply uncomfortable about someone with Khloé's wealth and power appropriating designs and fashion directly from a Black woman with a small business without crediting her, making cheap knockoffs, and then attempting to threaten her into silence."
She adds, in closing to Kardashian: "You should be ashamed."