Fashion house Moschino accused of copying graffiti artist's work

Fashion designer Jeremy Scott kisses singer Katy Perry's hand at the Met Gala in New York back in May.

Story highlights

  • Suit claims dress worn by Katy Perry at Met Gala infringes on copyright of Brooklyn artist
  • Fashion house Moschino and its creative director Jeremy Scott are named
  • Plaintiff Rime says the brand ripped off a mural he painted in 2012
  • Moschino says the lawsuit's allegations are false

(CNN)Katy Perry's dress at the Met Gala in May landed the pop star on worst dressed lists. Now it could land its designer in an L.A. courtroom.

A lawsuit filed this week in federal court in California claims the designer, Jeremy Scott, and his fashion house, Moschino, ripped off the work of Brooklyn graffiti artist Rime.
Calling it a "literal misappropriation," attorneys for Rime, identified in the suit as Joseph Tierney, show in the filings a photo of Perry posing in the dress next to a photo of a mural painted by Tierney in Detroit.
    The colors, the curves of the patterns -- down to a pair of cartoon eyes glaring out from the back of a matching suit worn on the red carpet by Scott himself -- and the designs mirror Tierney's work, the lawsuit alleges.
    "Not only was his art exploited by Defendants, but his credibility as a graffiti artist was compromised by inclusion in such a crass and commercial publicity stunt," the suit reads.
    The appearance at the gala, which the suit says included an arrival in a spray-painted Rolls Royce and Moschino branded cans of fake spray paint, was a commercial coup for the Milan-based fashion company, spurring a New York Times profile of the creative director and, according to financial statements, a 16% jump in revenue for the first half of the year.
    For Tierney, the episode was a swagger jacking that the suit says damaged his reputation and left him "wide open to charges of 'selling out.'"
    "Nothing is more antithetical to the outsider 'street cred' that is essential to graffiti artists than association with European chic, luxury and glamour -- of which Moschino is the epitome," the suit says.
    Tierney's lawyers added that he has always carefully chosen his commercial projects, which have included an official redesign to Mickey Mouse and commissions by Adidas and Converse.
    In a statement, Moschino disputed the claims brought in the suit.
    "Many of the allegations, especially the inflammatory and gratuitous allegations of wrongdoing are false," the company said. "We intend to vigorously defend the lawsuit. During the pendency of a lawsuit, it is our practice not to comment on the specific facts of an ongoing case."
    Graffiti artist Rime says this mural he created in 2012 was copied by fashion house Moschino.
    The mural at the center of the suit is "Vandal Eyes." It was tagged in 2012 on a building in Detroit, at the request of the property owner, and constitutes copyrightable subject matter as an original work, "fixed in a tangible medium of expression," the suit argues.
    Tierney is seeking damages for proceeds lost as a result of the alleged infringement, and for any profits Moschino reaped in connection. He also asks for the brand to recall and destroy the full line of offending frocks.
    David Erikson, an attorney representing Tierney, told CNN he has not received an explanation from the brand for the reproductions, which include in some pieces, shown in photographs in the suit, a signature: "RIME."
    "The whole thing is completely outrageous," Tierney told CNN. "It's important for the artist community to stand together and make sure this never happens again. This is our livelihood."
    Scott was brought on by the firm in 2013 and debuted its fall 2015 line, which included the Perry dress, at Milan Fashion Week in February. For the finale of that show, supermodel Gigi Hadid walked down the runway in the collection's signature piece -- the same red and black dress at the center of the suit.