Chic luxury handbag designer Sarah Nakintu sees a strong resemblance between her Lady Bag design and Mansur Gavriel's new collection that debuted at NYFW.
Ugandan luxury hand bag designer, Sarah NaKintu, founder of Kintu New York, whom we featured in our second installment of Okayafrica's new series Afropreneurs, was just leaving a meeting Tuesday when a friend pinged her with a photo, saying "Go and check Instagram now, Mansur Gavriel just showed their new collection, they copied your lady bag."
Seeing the unmistakable resemblance to her Lady Bag design, released in March, NaKintu immediately pulled up Instagram and felt her heart sink.
It appears Mansur Gavriel copied the body style, only changing the color to tan and replacing Kintu New York's trademark cow-horn closure, sourced from Kenya, with a basic metallic clasp.
From Kintu's Instagram
Today is a sad day. I was leaving a meeting when a friend sent me a photo saying 'go and check Instagram now, Mansur Gavriel just showed their new collection, they copied your lady bag". I raced out of the meeting to check my Instagram and there it was, our Lady Handbag (in Blue) that we launched earlier this year in March copied by Mansur Gavriel. You see, we are a new emerging brand, our core value is preserving luxury artisanal skills by working with artisans in places like Kenya and India. The hardware on our bags was made with artisans in Kenya. What's worse is that many people are calling the MG design new", "fresh" and "innovative." No, we launched our line in March and we've been posting it on several social media platforms using #ladybag and even received a feature on Vogue.it in Vogue Selection. It's really hard for a new handbag brand to break through, we've worked so hard for the past year to perfect our designs, enter the market and be recognized. To see our design ripped off by a very successful brand is really upsetting and should be illegal. (Kintu Lady Bag in blue, Mansur Gavriel new bag in camel top left). @mansurgavriel #mansurgavriel #NYFW #ss17 #copy #accessories
A photo posted by KINTU NEW YORK (@kintunewyork) on
We caught up with NaKintu by phone to inquire about what looks like a blatant rip-off.
"It's upsetting. We are so small. They just changed the hardware," she laments. "We're new. We work with artisans. It's hard when a bigger brand takes our design."
NaKintu's cerulean Lady Bag design debuted on the market in March, using #LadyBag, and was recently featured on Vogue in Vogue Selection. It's possible Mansur Gavriel saw the feature or hashtag, and looked to NaKintu's design as "inspiration."
Unfortunately in the fashion design world, anyone can claim a design as inspiration, NaKintu explains. There isn't a formal process for patenting a design. And it's difficult for smaller, scrappier companies to compete with bigger and more established production houses.
"It's definitely awful. We're trying to see what we can do," she says. "You can just raise awareness and let people know you made it first."
NaKintu is currently in the process of consulting with her production team to see what further recourse she may have to challenge Mansur Gavriel's alleged knock-off.