Three independent artists have filed a lawsuit in California federal court alleging that Shein is responsible for copyright infringement of their work.
The fast-fashion juggernaut has come under fire before from other artists and influencers like TikTok’s “Tami” who have alleged Shein appropriated their work. This week’s legal entanglement comes at a time when Shein is said to be exploring plans for an IPO.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court’s Central District of California. In the suit, Krista Perry, Larissa Hernandez and Jay Baron claim that Shein produced, distributed and sold exact copies of their creative work. The trio of artists are each independent and had not previously worked together on any projects, according to their attorney Jeff Gluck.
Their suit alleges that Shein’s business model has resulted in “a pattern of systematic criminal intellectual property infringement.”
A Shein spokeswoman did not respond immediately to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.
The three artists also allege that the algorithm was sanctioned by Shein’s founder Chris Xu.
The filing alleges that Shein “has made billions by creating a secretive algorithm that astonishingly determines nascent fashion trends — and by coupling it with a corporate structure, including production and fulfillment schemes, that are perfectly executed to grease the wheels of the algorithm, including its unsavory and illegal aspects. To the uninitiated, the consumer-facing aspects of the model are utterly unfamiliar.”
In the filing, the artists, who work in a variety of art and with merchandise that is not purely fashion, claim that “if Shein intellectual property theft and blame avoidance is facilitated by its byzantine shell game of a corporate structure, and the willingness of its control group to commit systemic and repeated infringements,” they are protected by the civil prong of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (civil “RICO”), which was designed to address the misconduct of culpable individual cogs in an larger enterprise. “It is well established that egregious copyright infringement (of the type alleged here, and of the type referenced in other similar cases against Shein) constitutes racketeering — pursuant to a 2005 act of Congress,” the suit contends.
Perry deferred comment to Gluck, who said that all three artists were clients of his firm, who already had claims and were brought together in the new lawsuit.