A Black designer and creative entrepreneur is looking to have a little chat with Balenciaga who he says “borrowed” a crewneck design of his, without acknowledgement, and without pay. The shirt design features the word “FREE” across the chest in an all capital letterman font. Lamont “Tory” Stapleton, the man behind the design recently posted the story on his Instagram to make his followers aware, and make a public plea for a connection to the brand.
“@balenciaga we need to talk,” he captioned the video post on Wednesday. Stapleton also shared that he started his line, “Struggle is Common” in 2019 after losing a friend to a battle with addiction.
“My goal was to remind people that they’re not alone and to encourage them to face their problems head on if they truly wish to be FREE,” he shared.
Upon the release of the design, Stapleton shared that he wore the crewneck to an exclusive party in Los Angeles. It caught the attention of many celebrities at the event, and that he was often drawn into “conversations about the meaning behind my sweatshirt.”
Three years later, Stapleton started getting tagged in a video featuring Diddy who seemed to be wearing his work. But the designer shared that he was confused because while he was being congratulated by his friends and followers who recognized the design as his, he knew that this wasn’t the case.
“I was scratching my head with confusion,” he said. And then more pics were sent to Stapleton featuring other celebs wearing the knock off “FREE” design including Da Baby.
“At this point it became apparent that someone had clearly ‘borrowed’ my design, but I had no idea who,” he said.
Eventually, Stapleton was directed to the Balenciaga site where he discovered that his “borrowed” design was being sold in the original black and white color wave as well as other variations for more than 25 times the price.
“I say all that to say, if anyone knows anyone at Balenciaga, can you please have them reach out to me. We need to have a conversation,” he said.
As we all know, luxury brands have been ripping off Black designers for years and Stapleton wants to use his voice to put an end to it.
“All too often, the little people get stepped on by big brands and I just want to ensure that this is not another example of that, but rather just a big misunderstanding. Thank you for listening,” he concluded.