Fashion, like all art forms, is the product of designers reacting to their surroundings and more often than not, pulling inspiration from similar sources. Labeling someone’s work an indisputable “rip-off” is tricky terrain, though last night’s MTV VMAs sparked such allegations from Melbourne fashion house Discount Universe against NY label BCALLA.
Miley Cyrus closed the award show by storming the stage with 31 drag queens in custom BCALLA to perform her Dead Petz opener, “Dooo It!” Pulled together by stylist Simone Harouche, the costumes all absolutely captured the essence of BCALLA’s own colorful, cartoonish aesthetic, though certain details could (maybe) seem lifted from DU’s work (see the signature Third Eye motif and campy glittery mouths). DU designers Cami James and Nadia Napreychikov took to Instagram to respond to the similarities:
“To our dearest DU Family, THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts for all the LOVE and support. We are obviously distraught, and this couldn’t have come at a worse time as we are on our official last day of making the new collection, so we are trying our best to rise above and stay focused. We’ve kept our mouths closed about a lot of things in the past, but the ont hing you can’t TAKE and get away with is someone’s IDENTITY. We know it might be risky for us career-wise to comment on this, but if we didn’t, it would mean that we stand for NOTHING. We will be discussing this soon.”
BCALLA’s AW ’15 collection strongly reveals, however, that the two simply share similar brand identities, and that’s okay (See: the “Collective Unconscious”). Before last night, BCALLA was already well established within the Underground circuit for his Aaahh!!! Real Monsters vibe, finished with plenty of glitter, barely there silhouettes and over-the-top technicolor graphics. Perhaps the better question to propose is why Cyrus, a dedicated DU fan, chose to enlist the help of another designer to achieve an almost identical look?
“Emerging brands get ripped off all the time, but it’s just a bit weird as Miley was Discount Universe’s biggest fan,” said WWD contributor to the Sydney Morning Herald. “Perhaps they’ve had a falling out and this guy was called upon to design something similar for less money with the promise of exposure.”
Referring to DU as an “emerging brand” seems misguided in comparison to BCALLA, especially considering the duo’s larger online audience, celebrity fan base and stable retail backing.
Maybe an answer lies in the drag element of last night’s finale, considering that BCALLA’s currently a queer nightlife staple. He’s previously dressed RuPaul’s Drag Race finalist Pearl, Brooklyn performer Macy Rodman and BULLETT fave Luke Neocamp, all of which are key players in a culture that Cyrus highlighted on stage. (Seems like a fitting, authentic match, to be honest).
If BCALLA shifted his direction completely for Cyrus’ performance (which he clealry didn’t), DU’s argument would be much stronger. Instead this entire move reads as one brand’s public attempt to silence a smaller one for fear of having a new competitor in the market. Is there room for BCALLA and DU to make similar work? Absolutely—we love you both, now end the witch hunt. Watch Cyrus’ entire VMAs performance, below.