Does nobody Google anymore? Is a basic trademark or incorporation search too tedious to endure? Or do big stars’ teams just figure they can easily eclipse small independent entities, so due diligence is simply drudgery?
We’re asking this in all seriousness because only weeks after the unfortunately named country vocal group Lady Antebellum bulldozed and bullied a well-established blues singer in a newly woke rush, placing themselves on the wrong side of erasure by spontaneously renaming themselves the already-in-use “Lady A,” pop princess Taylor Swift found herself in a similar fix. After launching “The Folklore,” a merchandise collection released in tandem with her latest (surprise) album Folklore—the megastar found herself accused of stealing from an online African diaspora concept store with the same name—and a logo not too different from the one promoting Swift’s new brand.
Trademarked in 2018, The Folklore is a New York City-based retail brand that features carefully curated apparel and accessories from across the diaspora, founded and owned by Amira Rasool. As reported by Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), unlike Lady Antebellum, Swift didn’t hesitate to respond appropriately after being contacted by Rasool’s attorneys, removing “The” from her brand’s name as an immediate fix.
“Yesterday, we were made aware of a complaint that the specific use of the word ‘the’ before ‘folklore album’ on some of the folklore album merchandise was of concern,” Swift’s team wrote in a statement obtained by Good Morning America. “Absolutely no merchandise using ‘the’ before the words ‘folklore album’ has been manufactured or sent out.
“In good faith, we honored [Rasool’s] request and immediately notified everyone who had ordered merchandise with the word ‘the’ preceding ‘folklore album’ that they will now receive their order with the design change,” the statement concluded.
It would seem a quick and mutually amenable solution, and as Rasool explained to WWD: “The main thing was having ‘The Folklore’ when the album was just called ‘Folklore.’” She also noted that she’d received at least one message from a fan seeking a digital download of Swift’s album, demonstrating the confusion between the two entities. Nevertheless, that confusion was likely compounded by Swift’s logo, which had a layout similar to Rasool’s, including vertical placement of that aforementioned “The.” Preemptively answering our Google question, WWD reports: “She said if one Googles ‘The Folklore,’ Rasool’s logo comes up, and she feels Swift’s people would have seen that.”
Admittedly, this isn’t the first time Swift has been accused of appropriation (even by yours truly—if half-jokingly), though the singer has become increasingly self-aware and vocal about racism, as of late. In fact, despite our many (no, seriously—many) criticisms of the pop star in the years since Kanye wouldn’t let her finish, the singer even reached out to The Root this Juneteenth to promote national recognition of the oft-overlooked African American holiday, which makes this very public hiccup all the more disappointing.
Was it an innocent mistake? Perhaps, though Rasool told WWD “I think there’s a larger conversation that needs to be had...It’s not just damaging to one Black woman, it’s all the brands that we work with.”
To be clear: Swift’s Folklore collection features sweatshirts, tees and a song-themed cardigan, among other typical music merch, while Rasool’s brand includes and elevating a slew of independent designers from the continent (an in-house brand is in her future plans). And while the business owner commends Swift for her, er, swift action, their respective legal teams are reportedly still in conversation about “next steps,” though Swift’s publicist declined to comment on WWD’s story and neither party disclosed whether there is monetary compensation on the table.
But as predictable as Swift racking up more radio-friendly hits is the rabid response of her loyal base, rivaled only by the Beyhive and Nicki Minaj’s Barbz for their pit bull-like fervor for their golden goddess. Since daring to defend her own brand, Rasool told WWD Swift’s fans have been on the attack, “calling me a bitch and a liar,” and accusing her of making the claim just for clout.
“I think there was a lot of damage to my brand for me speaking out. I don’t think I deserved that,” she said.
She didn’t—but online attacks on Black women are unfortunately nothing new. And that would be where we come in—because we think we just found a new favorite Black-owned business to support. If the backfire resulting from the nonsensical assault on Black-owned brand The Honey Pot taught us nothing, it’s that we don’t need to bully—because we buy.
As described by WWD, The Folklore “features more than 30 designers from Africa and the diaspora and serves as a cultural hub for contemporary brands, artists and [creators] to showcase their personal stories. Most of the fashion, accessories and homewares are handmade by local artisans based in South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco and Cote D’Ivoire. In addition to operating as an online concept store, The Folklore also provides wholesale services to African designer brands interested in penetrating the global retail market.”
Ummm...yeah, count us all the way in...and The Folklore’s Instagram is an outright gorgeous array of inspiration, so we expect to be spending a lot of time there, too.
As for Swift, she has not commented publicly on the matter, no doubt preferring to leave that to her reps and legal team in favor of promoting her new album. As Rasool noted to WWD, there is irony in the attacks from Swift’s fanbase, given how the musician has legally advocated for herself and her intellectual property in recent years.
“She has stood up and defended her trademarks before,” Rasool noted, also recognizing Swift as a “strong advocate for women” on Twitter. “She’s a big proponent of people standing up and speaking out. For me to be attacked and say I’m doing this for attention…”
Don’t worry—we got you, Sis.