British Columbia

Aritzia sued over hot pink sculptures by artist claiming they're 'identical' copies of his work

Aritzia is being sued by an artist in the United States over squiggly, hot pink sculptures being featured in window displays across North America this spring.

Artist says Canadian retailer is violating copyright with sculptures across North America

A pink, curved sculpture is pictured inside a window display for a store inside a mall. Women's clothing is pictured on nearby mannequins.
Sculptures forming part of a window display at an Aritzia store are pictured at the Westfield San Francisco Centre mall in early 2023. (Supplied)

Aritzia is being sued by an artist in the United States over hot pink sculptures that have been featured in the Canadian fashion retailer's window displays across North America this spring.

The artist said the Canadian chain is copying his work with sculptures that are "identical" to the sculptures he's been creating for more than 40 years. 

"I was astounded. Why? Why not contact me? ... It was hurtful, quite frankly," said Richard X. Zawitz, who owns Tangle Creations.

In a lawsuit filed from his home state of California, Zawitz says Aritzia's window displays are a "significant" infringement of his copyright — online and in real life. He said the popular, mid-priced women's wear retailer, headquartered in Vancouver, has displayed the sculptures in cities from Vancouver and Toronto to New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. 

He said he found out about Aritzia's display from friends earlier this year.

"My phone blew up," he said in an interview.

"Everybody was texting me from all over the country, including Canada, and said, 'Wow, your sculptures are in Aritzia. How fantastic. They look beautiful' ... I was astounded, but boy, they look good," he continued.

"I was on my way to L.A. the next day and I went down to The Grove and boy, those sculptures were in the window."

An Aritzia storefront is pictured.
Pink sculptures are pictured in the Aritzia window display at Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto in early 2023. (Supplied)

An Aritzia spokesperson told CBC in a written statement that the retailer is currently reviewing the matter.

"These sculptures were created by Aritzia's in-house designers who strive to create an everyday luxury, aspirational shopping environment for our clients. Boutique visual displays are seasonal in nature and have been taken down in the normal course," the spokesperson said.

TikTok of sculpture sees 8.5M views

The sculptures have also gotten attention on TikTok. Some employees filmed themselves trying to assemble the pieces — resembling pink macaroni — and wrangling the sculptures into the window. Some people replying in the comments asked if the sculptures would be available to take home once Aritzia was done with them.

One video has had more than 8.5 million views.

Zawitz's lawsuit said his fine art Tangle sculptures and miniature toy versions are made of interlocking, curved pieces that can be twisted and bent to customize the pose. He claimed Aritzia's art consists of similar interlocking pieces and bear the same hot pink, chrome finish as the "palm metallic pink" option sold in his online store.

A pink, curved sculpture is pictured inside a window display for a store inside a mall.
Another sculpture forming part of a window display at the Aritzia store is pictured at the Westfield San Francisco Centre mall in 2023. Zawitz says the statues have been in stores across Canada and the United States. (Supplied)
A piece of twisted, metal chrome is pictured on a light wooden desk.
The Chrome Original Tangle art piece designed by Richard X. Zawitz is pictured in an undated photo. Zawitz's lawsuit said he's held copyright over his Tangle designs since the 1980s. (Tangle Creations)

"The striking similarities between the Infringing Sculptures and the TANGLE Sculptures indicate that [Aritzia] committed their infringing acts deliberately, willfully, and maliciously, without regard to [Zawitz]'s proprietary rights in the TANGLE Copyright Registrations," read the lawsuit filed this month.

Zawitz said he would've been open to collaborating with the retailer or being credited with his name in the window, but they weren't able to settle the issue out of court.

"We found them rather unwilling and uncompromising. So we had to take this step," he said.

"As an artist, if you don't protect what you've created ... it's going to get stolen."

Zawitz said he's collaborated with the fashion industry before.

Michael Jackson wore a version of the art in L'Uomo Vogue, or Vogue Italia for men, as part of a spread marking the 25th anniversary of his Thriller album in 2007. British fashion label J.W. Anderson partnered with Zawitz to create the metal handles for its Spring 2016 collection.

Two people walk in opposite directions in front of a store. The word "Aritzia" appears over its wooden doors in gold metal script.
Aritzia is pictured in Vancouver on March 29. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"They missed a golden opportunity, frankly," Zawitz said of Aritzia.

The copyright claim has not been proven and Aritzia has not filed a response in court. 

Zawitz is seeking up to $30,000 in damages from Aritzia for each instance of alleged copyright infringement.

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