A Santa Cruz, California skateboard artist made an upsetting discovery last week: a New York fashion line has been using suspiciously similar designs in its newest clothing line. Jimbo Phillips is 43 years old and has been creating skateboard art since he was 18, but this is the first time he’s had to deal with any legal matters involving his art.
“My initial reaction was, wow, this stuff is on a New York runway,” he said. “The more I saw it, it’s kind of like a span of emotions. At first you are laughing, then you are kind of angry. I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
Fans had e-mailed pictures to Phillips after seeing the strikingly similar designs on models rather than skateboards. “I didn’t want people thinking I condoned the art,” he said. “It wasn’t up to my standards. I looked and thought those were bad renditions. A lot of people were wondering and I made a statement that this wasn’t coming from us.”
The runway is part of the fall line by Jeremy Scott. His clothes have been worn by celebrities such as Katy Perry and Kanye West—so the fact that the art may be purloined could prove to be a big problem for the designer. Phillips’ fans have spared him no courtesy so far, calling him names, criticizing him intensely and even creating graphics to express their anger. Phillips has clarified that this isn’t coming from him—but warns that Scott has really “stepped on a hornet’s nest” by angering his fans.
It’s unclear of whether charges will be pressed at this time, as Phillips himself is unsure of how to proceed. There’s also the fact that much of his work is owned by NHS, Inc./Santa Cruz Skateboards. NHS is currently determining a proper course of action, and has said that “there is clear and obvious infringement by Mr. Scott.”
Phillips’ father, Jim, is also a skateboard artist and much of his work has been reflected in the Scott collection as well. However, Jim Phillips Sr. has said he doesn’t want to be involved in a legal case.
“These two artists and this brand are iconic. Any true fan of skateboarding will tell you how the Phillips artwork style, this brand and the activity of skateboarding has positively influenced their lives,” said NHS president Robert A. Denike. “It may just be artwork to Mr. Scott, to be used and thrown away by next season, but these artists and brand mean a lot to many people around the world.”