In Linsell, Sweden, circa 1950s, Gosta Olofsson, a village gas station and shop manager, creates home made souvenirs that turn out to be quite popular with both the locals and tourists.
One piece, in particular, is his signature Linsell scarf.
The scarf depicts the picturesque village in a bright, you might say fauvist-esque, fashion. The scarf displays the county’s coat of arms, a notable bridge, and a sketch of the village’s church as seen from the Olofsson garden. Fast forward to New York, 2008, where in Marc Jacobs’ recent collection we see a scarf surprisingly similar to Olofsson’s 1950s version.
At first when reading the story in The Local – Sweden’s English newspaper – I thought that perhaps this was a case of inspiration taken too far. Perhaps Jacobs or one of his designers had seen the scarf and used it as a style guide for the creation of a “mountain bandanna” of their own.
These thoughts were quelled, however, when juxtaposed photos of the two scarves emerged on the web. The colors are identical – or would be, had Olofsson had the printing capabilities of Jacobs; the images are identical – the bear, the bridge, the sheep, the villages coat of arms, right down to the angle of the church. The one change Jacobs did feel it necessary to make – changing Linsell, Sweden to Marc Jacobs, Since 1984 – was even done in a handwritten lettering very similar to that of the original.
Olofsson passed away in 1982, and therefore was unable to catch this act of plagiarism himself. However, his 55-year-old son, Goran Olofsson, was able to catch Jacobs in the act. “I was very surprised when I saw the new scarf.” Olofsson told The Local. “It looks like a clear case of plagiarism.”
Being the humble Swede he is, Olofsson wished only to gain clarification as to whether Jacobs had somehow acquired the rights to the design, or if he – his father’s only heir – was indeed the owner of the design.
As of March 4, Olofsson had finally received word back from Jacobs in the form of an undisclosed cash amount. The Marc Jacobs fashion house will continue to sell their “mountain bandannas,” but will now do so legally. However, what is this story really telling us? Can we no longer trust the fashion industry, the rock that our society is delicately balanced upon?
And, if not, who can we trust? Who will we discover is lying to
us next – Fortune 500 companies or, gasp, politicians?