Today a post on the popular Instagram account, Diet Prada accused the fashion house Balenciaga of replicating the work of an arts student, without crediting her.
In June 2019, artist Tra My Nguyen - who at the time was studying at Berlin University of the Arts, was doing her masters project exploring Vietnam’s female motorbike culture. The project drew on her family history and involved her wrapping and collaging clothing over motorbikes, creating what she called wearable sculptures. At her master’s presentation, a Balenciaga “recruiter” asked for her portfolio. Nguyen was told by a Balenciaga employee - whose position as a “creative development strategist” was verified via LinkedIn - told her they were looking for interns. Nguyen sent her portfolio to Balenciaga - she never received a reply.
Today Balenciaga’s Instagram feed shows a sculpture which is almost identical to Nguyen’s. The sculpture is wrapped in Balenciaga clothing - the background and angle of the photograph is very similar to Nyugen’s imagery, but there is no mention of Nguyen.
Nguyen has spoken out on her Instagram with a post that now has over 30,000 likes - she has stated that she feels angry and speechless, and calls Balenciaga out for “stealing, appropriating and profiting from POC artists” ideas. She also states “I feel betrayed and hurt as it’s a part of my culture, it’s an artistic process and not a random fashionable aesthetic you can profit on”. Read her full statement below.
Brands have a long history of copying designs from lesser known or unknown artists - and while Balenciaga has yet to comment it appears from both Diet Prada and Nguyen, that this incident falls into that history.