Pot Meets Kettle: H&M Sues SHEIN for Stealing Designs

It was inevitable: the fast fashion brands are fighting each other day. Mere days after SHEIN was hit with a RICO-citing lawsuit, H&M has sued its fast fashion competitor for alleged copyright infringement.

In other words, companies famous for knocking off other designers are battling over purported knock-off designs.

H&M’s lawsuit against SHEIN, first reported by Bloomberg, takes issue with SHEIN infringing upon its designs “in multiple cases,” according to a spokesperson cited in the report.

The filing’s specifics were revealed in June 2023 after a hearing in Hong Kong, where H&M initially filed its SHEIN lawsuit back in 2022. According to second-hand sources, H&M has been developing this case against SHEIN since at least 2021, a short time before SHEIN established itself as the global face of ultra-fast fashion.

This is one of the first times that one fast fashion company has taken another to court. Rival imprints like H&M and Inditex’ Zara have long faced off in terms of sales alone but there’s never been an attack like this before.

What’s especially interesting is that the news of H&M’s SHEIN lawsuit arrived at the same time as a separate legal filing from Temu, a Chinese fast fashion company that has legally battled SHEIN for several months.

In December 2022, SHEIN sued Temu for infringing upon its “exclusive and valuable trademark,” according to The Fashion Law and, on July 14, Temu retorted with a separate lawsuit accusing SHEIN of a “scheme of coerced exclusivity, threats, intimidation, and direct financial punishments.”

Though there’s a history of transgressions with artists small and big alike, H&M is less prone to accusations of stolen designs than rivals like Zara or upstarts like PrettyLittleThing.

Indeed, H&M is now reputable enough to secure collaborations with actual designers like Mugler and Moschino.

Meanwhile, SHEIN and knock-off imitations go together like tequila and lime juice.

Literally dozens of artists and independent designers have charged SHEIN with design theft, so H&M is in good company.

Nonetheless, it’s surprising to see H&M take SHEIN to court over theft. It’s not like H&M has signature designs so recognizable as to inspire imitation from one of the world’s fastest (and most ethically dubious) fashion companies so a knock-off’s not a knock-off until the court says so.

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