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Dundee fashion designer wins ‘David vs Goliath’ case after online retail giant Shein stole her designs

Deborah Breen in her studio.
Deborah Breen in her studio.

A Dundee fashion designer took on a global company – and won – after customers across the Atlantic discovered her work was being stolen.

Deborah Breen, founder of Wilde Mode was “angered” and mounted a legal challenge after it was revealed fast fashion e-commerce platform, Shein, copied her designs.

The former Harris Academy pupil, who officially launched her company in 2019 and now employs six staff, has built up a strong customer base with her unique brand of undergarments.

She said a font distinctive to Wilde Mode branding had been inspired and replicated from her late grandfather and Dundee artist, Leslie Wilde’s signature.

Dundee artist Leslie Wilde (left), Deborah’s grandfather, was the inspiration for the name and design of the Wilde Mode company logo.

The 41-year-old said the duplication of his signature style on the Shein Curve range was particularly “hurtful”.

“They are nothing more than vultures taking designs off independent traders and selling them at a fraction of the cost,” she said.

“Our customers alerted us to what was going on, they saw it on Shein sites in America and Argentina.

“They’d copied one of our designs basically down to the last detail. The stitching on the rainbow banding wasn’t the same, as it’s fast fashion they’ve got people in factories churning these out.

“The copying of my grandfather’s signature was particularly hurtful. He’s sadly no longer with us but he’d inspired my artistic side and is a part of the brand through his signature.”

The original Wilde Mode design and the Shein ‘rip-off’.

Deborah quickly discovered that Shein’s tactics were more widespread than she had imagined.

She added: “Once I posted about the matter on social media more people were getting in contact explaining the same thing had happened to them with their brands being copied.”

The mother-of-two said she wasn’t prepared to sit by and let the online retail giant away with it as she mounted her challenge through her trademark attorney, Steven Suer.

She added: “These companies pick on independent traders as they don’t think they’ll have the financial backing to contest the decision.

“I knew this was an unlawful use of our Intellectual Property Rights by Shein and contested their use of our design and branding.

“As soon as they were approached they tried to claim they had no idea the design had been copied from mine.

“They said that they employ people to find them the designs and tried to distance themselves from it.

“What said it all to me was that they actually have a specific email address which deals with copyright cases.”

Deborah beside the leopard design print which was stolen by the global online firm Shein.

Deborah said the copied top would cost £38 and the bottoms £18 to £21 from Wilde Mode.

She added: “With the current price mode we don’t make a lot of money off the back of it and here we have Shein flogging it for £4 with free postage and packaging.

“If you’ll do a little research you’ll discover how they keep these costs down and fair trade certainly isn’t a factor and neither is protecting the environment.

“As a result of their actions we’ve actually called that leopard print pants and comfort top set on our site now ‘As Stolen By Shein!’

Shein initially offered to pay a three-figure sum of money in the way of an apology, which Deborah and her lawyer contested.

Deborah added: “We ended up getting a four-figure sum of money as a result of them using our designs.

“For that particular design it maybe took me a couple of weeks to compile and in a heartbeat, they’d just lifted it and fobbed it off as their own.”

Deborah in her studio.

Deborah’s recent win has seen her becoming a “mother figure” for other independent traders seeking advice over copyright infringements on their designs.

She added: “If I can take on this huge corporate giant on this David vs Goliath style case any other trader can do the same and I’ve urged them to challenge them.

“They shouldn’t be getting away with taking other people’s work and fobbing it off as their own after they’ve poured their blood, sweat, and tears into it.”

Shein was approached for comment regarding the matter, but had not responded at the time of publication.

This article originally appeared on the Evening Telegraph website. For more information, read about our new combined website.