Just as the fashion world tries to digest the Kiini bikini affair, another possible swimwear drama, involving big industry players, is brewing. This time in Israel. When Israeli designer Hila Weinberg got up Sunday morning and checked her phone, she had to keep rubbing her eyes in disbelief. On the screen was a black one-piece swimsuit advertised on the Macy’s website for $145.
The suit looked very familiar, with geometric sections delineated from the center of the chest to the thighs, sewed with elastic rubber finishes – just like the Aliza style she designed at the end of 2016 for her own BiliBlond brand, and which sold for 650 shekels ($175.5).
But the name appearing with this swimsuit, and other versions of it in different colors, was that of the American fashion label Michael Kors.
“A friend of mine likes to look at online shopping sites before going to bed,” recounts Weinberg, who can count actress Gal Gadot as one of her star clients. “In the middle of the night, she was looking at the Macy’s site and another website. She saw a swimsuit on the Michael Kors site and noticed that it looked just like the BiliBlond swimsuits. At first she thought it must be a collaboration. She sent it to me first thing in the morning.
“I was so taken aback,” continues Weinberg. “It was very stressful. I didn’t know what to do. The only thing you feel you have some power with is social media, so I immediately combined the pictures and posted it.”
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Weinberg’s Facebook and Instagram posts on her BiliBlond Swimwear pages were written in English and Hebrew (spelling mistakes in the English text have been corrected here):
“Dear Michael Kors, when I started my BiliBlond Swimwear brand a few years ago, it was my dream to create something new that people have never seen before! To make my own mark in the world of fashion. My very own Aliza style was presented at @ilovehammock at @miamiswimweekend in July 2016. It came as a surprise to me to see my style as part of the Michael Kors 2019 swimwear collection! I wish [only] the best for all designers, [but] like to see every designer rely on his talent, personal imagination and abilities to create a name for himself,” she wrote.
Her messages were posted just before midday on Sunday. “I tagged @diet_prada [a popular Instagram account about plagiarism among designers] and sent them the details. I hope they’ll do something about it,” the Israeli designer says.
A former senior designer for Israeli high-street brands Renuar and TwentyFourSeven, Weinberg started BiliBlond three years ago. The label quickly became a favorite of local celebrities and has been a huge hit on Instagram. Since then, she has worked with Topshop’s flagship store in London. Her collections are also sold in boutiques in the United States, Russia, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey, Greece, Trinidad and the Bahamas.
Asked if she plans to sue the Michael Kors fashion brand, Weinberg says she has been “consulting with lawyers in the intellectual property field. I don’t know yet if I’ll sue. The designs are not registered designs so there may not be much that can be done about it. I have 20 designs in the [Aliza] collection. Who can afford to pay for each one of them?
“It wasn’t until I was at shows abroad, which are filled with buyers but also industrial spies, that I realized it can be dangerous. People were constantly photographing the styles and I started worrying about copies. The problem is that you can’t register a style that’s already out on the market.
“When I first launched the label,” she adds, “there was a four-page article about me, with pictures, on [trend forecasting company] WGSN, with the title ‘Designers to Follow.’ In 2017, they included my 2016 styles in their book of fashion forecasts. It’s very flattering, of course, but people also look there for inspiration. The whole industry subscribes to it. Maybe that’s how Michael Kors got to me as well?”
As of press time, no comment concerning the allegation had been received by Michael Kors.