The Instagram user Thebe Ikalafeng first spotted the familiar diamond-shaped design in a Zara store:
Appropriation or appreciation? I’d say this is just daylight @maxhosa intellectual property theft by @zara. There’s a big difference between taking inspiration and illegal expropriation. #Maxhosa designed and launched this #Khanyisa cardigan and sox (slide left) range globally 2014. In 2018 @zara shamelessly copied the design as is and put in retail in earlier this month. As a global #African I understand that inspiration is global and no one has universal rights, but theft on the other hand should be universally condemned. We appreciate that Africa’s rich culture is now ‘en vogue’ but not at all costs. But our protected intellectual property rights should be respected as much as we respect that of other global brands. #Maxhosa and all Africans should not take this lying down. If they can do this to a relatively well known brand like @maxhosa you can imagine what they’ve been doing to lesser known designers with little resources or recourse. Everybody in Design and retail knows it’s the foundation of Zara to replicate and sell quickly - and perhaps apologize. Fast fashion straight from the (others’) runway is how there’re fashioned. But it does not mean we all have to accept it. We should all stand up and reject such blatant intellectual property expropriation and theft. #ThebeOnBrands
The design looks a lot like the signature patterns used by the designer Laduma Ngxokolo:
Ngxokolo's company told Business Insider SA that it has consulted with Shane Moore and Muhammad Patel from Moore Attorneys, one of Africa’s leading IP law firms to handle the matter on their behalf — "We have sent our letter of demand and await their [Zara's] reply."
The seemingly copy-cat design sparked a wave of social media fury among South Africans, including from some well-known personalities.
"This is disgusting," said the journalist Nikiwe Bkitsha, who sits on the Nelson Mandela Foundation's board of trustees. She added that Zara "must be taken to the cleaners".
"At first glance I thought you were celebrating a business partnership between them and #Maxhosa. It's disgusting and arrogant for @zara to think they can get away with stealing something that's not only so distinct to the designer, but that's also protected as intellectual property. Completely and utterly disgusting of them. I hope Laduma takes them to task and you're right, I hope buyers boycott these socks," said the media personality Bridget Masinga
See also: MaXhosa by Laduma is taking legal action against Zara over ‘copy-cat design’
The CEO of Facebook Africa, Nunu Ntshingila, commented with an emoji of disappointment.
That’s Zara’s entire business model. Not sure why people are surprised. EVERYTHING in store is copy and paste. Of course they were going to take Asian and Africa’s best styles- google and see how frustrated European designers are with the brand. https://t.co/456Cp8Eigh— Timothy Maurice (@timothymaurice) April 23, 2018
Do not get mad at Zara, Mr Price (amongst many others) beenT copying these expensive brands and I been getting my life... at a cheaper price. Also, is it not what these retail stores do vele? Giving us the same or similar items but at cheaper prices. I’m not mad. Won’t be futhi.— Tshepo (@tshepol_) April 23, 2018
MaXhosa won’t win a lawsuit against Zara, gigantic brands like louboutin have tried and failed. Rihanna tried to sue H&M and Forever 21 and lost . Chain stores easily get away with replicating designs. For as long as they change the name, somehow that protects them— Zinhle (@HazelbirdZinhle) April 23, 2018
People outchea complaining about Zara jacking MaXhosa designs, but how many complainants are willing to spend their hard-earned money on MaXhosa products? Probably too few to mention. Zara? The rest, neh? So please, activists. Go nap. pic.twitter.com/ei0FmVPLi0— The Vinmeister (@vnmstr) April 23, 2018
If we’re gonna be technical about the MaXhosa and Zara, Laduma doesn’t own the diamond/argyle print. However, the deliberate use of the SPECIFIC COLOURS used by Zara are blatantly copied from MaXhosa.— Aya Gwanya (@aya_gwanya) April 24, 2018
Zara, a Spanish firm which is part of the world's biggest apparel retailer Inditex, has been under fire for allegedly ripping off designs for a number of years. Fortune magazine reported that the company stood accused of stealing the designs of twelve artists.
Zara has also been accused of cultural appropriation and offensive designs. It has used a white supremacist symbol on one of its items in the past.
Asked about the boycotting of Zara stores, Ngxokolo tells Business Insider SA that Zara crossed the line and will therefore be returning all the products he has bought from them before. "I do feel that in this regards because of the disrespect they have shown and the lack of respect for artistic integrity I will be returning their products. They did not respect me as an artist who creates the design(s)," adding that Zara blatantly copied the designs and did not both with modifying it.