“Hey hey ho ho! Culture vultures have got to go!” Tourists and locals relaxing over crab cakes at the Ivy on Robertson Boulevard got some unexpected entertainment — and education — on Saturday afternoon. A group of over 40 artists, activists, underground scenesters and supporters carried signs outside of the Lauren Moshi store next door to the pricey restaurant, hoping to inform local shoppers and businesses in the area about what they see as the boutique owner’s appropriation of work by local artists.
In February 2018, noted photographer Estevan Oriol, who chronicles gang, car and celebrity culture ended his year-long copyright infringement case against Moshi over unauthorized use of his iconic photograph “L.A. Fingers.” Details of the settlement are not available, likely due to non-disclosure agreements.
Within months of that legal battle ending, a safety pin shirt that looked very much like the Lethal Amounts’ safety pin L.A. design — created and registered by gallery owner, nightclub promoter and L.A. Weekly contributor Danny Fuentes — popped up in the Moshi boutique and online. Fuentes — who has his signature logo tattooed on his neck and registered it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2012 — sent a cease and desist letter to Moshi in July 2018.
In turn, Moshi pre-emptively sued Fuentes claiming that he had no right to the trademark he had registered seven years earlier. Moshi’s lawsuit against Fuentes was dismissed in June of this year, but the subsequent legal fees have led to a GoFundMe page to help assist with the bills. On the advice of his lawyer Fuentes is not speaking with media about the case. Likewise, Moshi’s lawyers have stated to other press outlets that it’s the designer’s policy not to comment on ongoing legal matters.
Los Angeles-based Moshi (actually a brother/sister duo) is known for tees and sweats — popular with a celebrity clientele — featuring mostly licensed designs and collaborations with the likes of Disney, Warner Bros., etc. While the brand’s website includes a “Band Collection” of tees brandished with logos from Motley Crue, AC/DC and Poison; it also has a Dead Kennedy’s tee and sweat-pants, which had protestors — many of them punk fans — wondering about permissions.
“If you are gonna steal and be all badass for street cred, which is what Moshi is doing by lifting designs from underground and barrio-based artists who celebrate Latino and punk culture, then why not steal from the mega-corporations too?” posed one irate protester.
On Saturday, the Moshi boutique offered those picketing the opportunity to step into the store and grab bottled water (with the store logo on it) while the store’s manager, wearing a t-shirt reading “Make Love Not War,” stood with his phone ready to videotape the encounter. None of protestors entered, but two muscular men in tanks did. They later exited the boutique proudly, holding their t-shirt purchases aloft—one with the Oriol-inspired L.A. design and the other with Britney Spears’ face.
“Get a job!” yelled another shopper as he walked out of the store, drawing laughs from the crowd — mostly designers, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs and educators. Nurse and artist Noelia Citalin, who had driven two hours to march at the protest, said simply, “I’m here for integrity.”
- L.A. Weekly’s interview with Estevan Oriol.
- Oriol’s exclusive slideshow for L.A. Weekly.
- L.A. Weekly’s interview with Danny Fuentes (in which he explains how he came up with the safety pin design).
- Fuentes work for L.A. Weekly.
Lisa Derrick is an L.A. Weekly contributor and owner of Lisa Derrick Fine Arts Gallery in Chinatown.