- Kylie Jenner’s Instagram post of herself wearing a $150 nipple-printed bikini top has gone viral.
- The piece is from the Jean Paul Gaultier X Lotta Volkova “naked” collection, which debuted in May.
A Chicago-based small business accused French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier of stealing its patented nipple-printed bikini top and selling a higher-priced version in an Instagram post on Tuesday.
The official account for The TaTa Top, a queer and women-owned brand primarily selling swimwear to raise funds for breast cancer awareness and women’s rights, reposted a photo carousel shared by Kylie Jenner on Monday where she is seen wearing the nipple-printed bikini top. The piece is from a collection co-created by Gaultier and Russian stylist Lotta Volkova that first debuted in May.
Jenner’s post, accompanied by the caption “free the nipple,” has over 11.1 million likes as of Wednesday.
But according to The TaTa Top, owned by writer and business person Linze Rice since 2018, Gaultier’s design is the product of plagiarism.
In caption of the post shared on Tuesday, the small business said they provided inspiration and an affordably priced product while Gaultier “try to sell a less-inclusive version to rich people for 5x the price! It’s amazing.”
“Never mind the fact we’ve had our (patented) top since 2014, donate $3 from each sale to charity, and are a LGBTQIA-owned business,” the caption continues. “It’s Pride Month, what better time to take advantage of the queers, am I right??”
The small business owner said they constantly face an ‘uphill battle’
Rice, who runs the business primarily by herself, told Insider that when she first became aware of Jenner’s post she was shocked and disheartened.
“We have worked so hard to fight against getting banned on Instagram, having our posts constantly removed and me constantly having to fight back and say, no, this is not a sexual product. Like we donate to breast cancer charities,” Rice, 32, said. Other challenges she’s said she’s faced included ensuring the business survived the pandemic, when her products weren’t considered essential.
For her, it felt as if she was “constantly fighting this uphill battle” which a designer like Gaultier never had to face, she said. While accusations of larger retailers or designers plagiarizing small businesses are nothing new, Rice said she’d always felt like the patent the original owners got for the design gave her a sense of security.
Regarding the patent, Rice declined to provide further information as to whether they would be pursuing legal proceedings.
All of The TaTa Top bikini tops cost $34.99 whereas Gaultier’s entire bikini set is $325. In terms of the fabric, Rice said the material between her bikini tops and Gaultier’s — which is made of 80% Polyamide and 20% Elastane, according to the French designer’s product description — is near identical.
“To have like five times the price point for almost the exact same design in the exact same fabric, quality, and material, it seems a little silly to me,” Rice added.
There has been an outpouring of support from her loyal customer base, which Rice said has helped her feel like she’s not wrong for spotting the similarities between the two designs. “It’s felt really, really good to know that at least kind of like somebody’s in your corner,” she said.
Gaultier reportedly first came out with a nude printed dress in 1984
While Volkova and Gaultier did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on the accusation of plagiarism, the Russian stylist Volkova did provide further context about their capsule collection in an interview with Vogue’s Steff Yotka, which includes pieces from the Gaultier archive.
Volkova’s intention was “capturing the quintessence of Jean Paul and reintroducing it to the contemporary fashion audience, to the younger generations, and for them to be able to buy.”
In the piece, Yotka also writes that Gaultier first came out with the nude trompe l’oeil dress in 1984, but back then it was made with jacquard and the image did not appear on any swimwear.
Rice also said she’s received some comments on her post of people saying they are “stupid for not understanding fashion history.”
While Rice said she loved the dress from the 1980s, calling it “gorgeous” and “iconic,” she did say there just is too much confusion between the TaTa Top and the Gaultier’s new bikini top for it not to be a problem.
“Do I want to be in this position? No,” Rice said. “But I have to defend my business, like this is my life.”
Representatives for Kylie Jenner did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.