Giuliano Calza, the creative director of Italian fashion brand GCDS, is calling out Shein for knocking off one of his label’s signature footwear styles.
In an Instagram post on Monday, the designer featured images of Shein’s version of the GCDS Morso Heel that Calza first unveiled in his fall/winter 2022 “Dracula” collection. The shoe features a distinctive heel in the shape of a teeth-bearing mouth and retails typically around $900 depending on the model. In stark contrast, Shein is retailing its version in Europe for 25.40 euros under its Cuccoo brand.
In the post, Calza shared his thoughts on the matter with the caption, “BOYCOTT @SHEINOFFICIAL or accept abusive behaviour, accept stealing and accept the planet where you live, to burn in shame and fear. Accept mediocrity and be part on killing someone’s else dreams.”
The post, which has garnered nearly 26,000 likes at the time of publication, has drawn reaction from celebrities and other designers. Country superstar Kacey Musgraves commented on the post, “Wow just wow,” while rapper Coi Leray added, “Yea we not doing that ! @sheinofficial.”
“Emily in Paris” star Ashley Park also commented on Calza’s post, writing, “This is so upsetting! I’m so sorry.” And Filippo Cirulli, designer of Milan based footwear brand Edhèn Milano added the sad face emoji.
When asked for further comment, Calza told FN that overall, he feels sad since the Morso Heel is one of “his most loved and genuine” designs. “There is not any type of respect on any level,” Calza said.
The designer also insisted that Shein’s decision to copy his design is not a move to “democratize” fashion, noting that made-in-Italy fashion “can’t survive” by lowering prices to this extreme. “These shoes are extremely expensive to produce in Italy, and people can’t see that a company like mine doesn’t make the volumes of a giant that sells it for 25.40 euros and spends million on marketing,” Calza admitted. “If we don’t act collectively and legally to regulate importation, or ban this website, made in Italy will disappear.”
“People don’t see how difficult it is to develop new colours, new materials and new shapes for such a specific shoe for a ‘medium’ sized brand like mine that offers a collection of not only accessories,” Calza continued. “People think that this doesn’t affect the business, but it does in so many ways. Even if [Shein] removes this shoe, they will still sell it on other channels or even worse trash them somewhere on the planet, which is already frying.”
And this isn’t the first time Shein has allegedly copied Calza’s designs. The designer told FN that Shein has done this “over and over” to him. “They even sold a GCDS logo sweater at the price of $18,” Calza said. “The wholesale price in Italy is more than this price, even before going into production.”
Calza cited another case where one of GCDS’ most successful products was copied so much that it infiltrated real shops everywhere in Europe. “We had to suspend the production and marketing behind it, because our advertising was working to sell the dupes and many retailers stopped purchasing the item,” he noted.
“Sadly, I have to say that people’s choice or ignorance affects my business too,” Calza added. “Consumers want everything and will ask ‘the creative’ to make a $9 dollar version in order to satisfy everyone. But this is not my job at all and it’s not sustainable on any level.”
In an emailed statement to FN, a Shein spokesperson said that the company takes all claims of infringement seriously. “It is not our intent to infringe anyone’s valid intellectual property and it is not our business model to do so,” the spokesperson told FN. “Shein suppliers are required to comply with company policy and certify their products do not infringe third-party IP. We continue to invest in and improve our product review process.”
Calza co-founded GCDS in 2015 with his brother Giordano and has built the often quirky and ironic brand’s influence around the world. The brand’s big break came when Kim Kardashian wore a full python GCDS look plus boots two days before the spring ’19 show. “I woke up to an Instagram tag from her and my heart was beating out the window,” said Calza in an interview with FN in 2019. “Owning a company and being the gatekeeper for so many daily decisions has been an ever-growing and never-ending challenge, but we always do our best to make sure the team stays inspired and happy.”
This isn’t the first case of Shein allegedly copying luxury designers and producing “dupes” for a mass consumer. The trend of shopping Shein for designer dupes is so popular that the “Shein knockoff” discover page on TikTok has had over 17 million views.