The allegations, first reported by the New York Times this week, center around “McQueen Graffiti,” which includes dresses, handbags, parkas, and, among other things, a skirt that Anna Wintour was spotted wearing at a recent New York Fashion Week party.
The apparel in that line is lined with intermingling scribbled black and white letters done in tones that recall Pendleton’s own work, which filled the atrium of New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2021.
According to the Times, Pendleton became aware of the line when a friend texted asking about Wintour’s skirt. Lawyers for the artist then sent Alexander McQueen a letter saying that the house had “copied” his work for its “Graffiti” line. The house reportedly responded that it would investigate.
But the investigation, the Times reported, revealed that McQueen had not plagiarized his work. “Alexander McQueen takes claims of intellectual property infringement very seriously,” the house said in a statement to the Times. “We immediately investigated Mr. Pendleton’s claims and concluded that these designs were created independently.”
Pendleton told the Times that he does not want any money, just an acknowledgement from Alexander McQueen.
“I believe visual cultural exchange is vital, necessary, happens all the time and should happen,” he told the Times. “But this is about how we assign and acknowledge value. It is basically someone saying, ‘You’re not worthy, what you do is not worthy of an acknowledgment.’”
Neither Pendleton nor Alexander McQueen responded immediately to ARTnews’s request for comment.
It is not unusual for fashion brands to draw heavily on artworks for inspiration, but some in the art world have claimed that doing so can at times go beyond what is comfortable for artists or even, in a few cases, legal. The Uffizi Galleries recently sued Jean Paul Gaultier, alleging that designs featuring Sandro Botticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus were done without prior authorization.