The recent Versace scandal featuring their “Medusa” shirt really forces us to ask the question, “what is happening to the fashion world?”. Visual artist Kesh alleges that Versace has “ripped off” one of her prints, used in a 2013 collection featured by American Apparel. Kesh’s shirt, called “Face Le New” originally sold for $50. The recent “Medusa” shirt launched by Versace sells for $650. Normally one would not expect a more expensive “knock-off” of a shirt. According to Walter Benjamin, “Man-made artifacts could always be imitated by men. Replicas were made by pupils in practice of their craft, by masters for diffusing their works, and finally, by third parties in the pursuit of gain” (2). The current situation with Versace does not seem to line up with Benjamin’s view. It is believed that the authentic came from Kesh but yet it has been ripped off by a brand that would be considered a “master” in the fashion world. So is the master imitating the pupil? Or does this situation take away Versace’s “master” status and puts them into the third party described by Benjamin. I cannot help but agree with the latter. Are they now nothing but a “third party” in the pursuit of profit, no longer respected as an artist in the fashion world? I suppose only time will tell.
Benjamin, Walter. 1936. The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. Pg. 2. https://sakai.uri.edu/access/content/group/50b74466-ba02-4b2a-a96f-6240db108e88/Readings%20_Main_/Benjamin%201936%20The%20Work%20of%20Art-KA-NOTES.pdf
Ledbetter, Carly. April 2, 2015. Versace ‘rip-off’ of an American Apparel t-shirt sells for hundreds of dollars. HuffingtonPost. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/01/kesh-versace-rip-off-american-apparel_n_6979048.html