On 20th November Jewellery designer Laurel Hill received a message from her friend that contained a screenshot of a pair of hoop earrings from an Anthropologie email. At first glance, Hill’s friend assumed they were Hill’s Gate hoop design (which she creates by hand), and not just because of their uncanny resemblance — but because Hill had worked with the retailer in 2015. In fact, Free People, which, like Anthropologie, is owned by Urban Outfitters Inc., also used to carry that particular style of earrings. “They’ve been a best-seller since I started marking them many, many years ago,” Hill tells Refinery29.
After learning that the earrings featured were not her own, Hill reached out to Anthropologie’s buyers not once, but twice, and did not receive a response. That’s when she decided to take things into her own hands. On Instagram, Hill posted a photo of her earrings on top of the Anthropologie pair, writing: “WHAT THE FUCK @anthropologie. This is so rude. I'm a person! You're a collective of people! Somewhere in there, someone was like "WOW we like these earrings but we don't want to support the designer or living wages or being decent humans so please send this 'inspo' pic of the original design to our factory overseas for cheap manufacture."
Following Hill's accusations, Anthropologie issued the following statement to Refinery29: "We were disappointed to discover the similarities between the earrings designed by Laurel Hill and our Lunar Cutout Hoop Earrings, which were independently designed and brought to us by an outside vendor. As a result, we have immediately suspended all sales of the earrings. We take intellectual property very seriously, both in protecting what has been developed by Anthropologie’s own artists and designers and also respecting the intellectual property and designs of others."
As it turns out, the reason Hill alleged Anthropologie copied her design is because the retailer offered to reorder some of her other pieces for what she calls “a fraction of the wholesale price.” Since she couldn’t afford to swing the lower cost, Hill says she declined. But, as she explains, “these hoops were pictured in that email exchange, as well as being present on every line sheet they've received and used to place orders.”
She continues: “I wasn't even going to post anything on social media. Because it happens all the time, and obviously this is not the biggest thing happening in the world right now, but after not getting any response from one of their buyers, the same person I worked with years ago, I decided to try and get their attention publicly. I thought I'd get a few angry comments in solidarity, but people have been so uplifting and supportive."
“Litigation isn't really my jam, but I haven't ruled it out,” Hill adds. “So many people are calling for a lawsuit and recommending lawyers (which I very much appreciate). We're stronger than we realise, and SO strong as a collective. Not just with our money, but with our attitudes and beliefs. It doesn't matter how huge you get, how much money you can throw at lawsuits."