H&M versus Street Art

Posted on March 19, 2018

H&M and marketing: a combination which is quite unsuccesfull. Back in January, the Swedish fast-fashion company was called out for its “racist” sweatshirt, leading collaborators like the Weeknd and Gigi Hadid to publicly cut ties with the brand. H&M then pulled the sweatshirt and issued an apology.

Now, H&M is in a conflict with the Los Angeles–based street artist Jason “Revok” Williams, who sent H&M a cease-and-desist letter in early January claiming one of his Brooklyn murals was used without his authorization in an ad for the brand’s New Routine line of workout gear.

"We must not allow this company to use our artwork and appropriate our culture to sell their products, for their own financial gains, while at the same time allow them to devalue and delegitimize our artwork, our culture, and everything we work for. 

This all began when H&M was caught using REVOK's artwork in an advertising campaign without permission. When REVOK asked them to stop, they responded by threatening him with criminal charges and filed this lawsuit declaring that all artists of unsanctioned artwork should be unprotected and have no rights whatsoever." R. Rock Enterprises

H&M indeed fired back last week by filing a federal lawsuit against him, proposing that Revok couldn’t claim copyright infringement since his graffiti work was done illegally.

Naturally, the street-art community, as it assumed that their work was up for grabs, did not need much time to express their thoughts. Several artists called for a boycott of the brand, including Kaws, who wrote “R.I.P. H&M” in an Instagram story.

This boycott eventually got the attention of H&M, which published a statement on Thursday saying the company, “should have acted differently in [its] approach to this matter.” In addition to removing the New Routine campaign from H&M’s website, the company went on to add: “It was never our intention to set a precedent concerning public art or to influence the debate on the legality of street art. As a result, we are withdrawing the complaint filed in court.”

To be continued ...

Photo: work by KAWS