Tuesday, Oct. 6, was a big day for the French clothing company Eleven Paris as some of the biggest stars in the music industry hit it with a lawsuit. Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kanye West, Jay-Z and Pharrell Williams filed a complaint with the Southern District of New York and are calling for a jury trial to be held. The stars were particularly insulted by the company’s use of their images, names and song lyrics on merchandise. T-shirts and phone cases have been made for a profit without obtaining the moguls’ authorization.
Beyoncé and group filed 58 complaints with the court, including publicity violations, trademark infringement and unfair competition against Eleven Paris, as well as many other common law violations. The plaintiffs are concluding that Eleven Paris is infringing among “arguably some of the most famous musical artists and entrepreneurs in the world” and using the stars’ notoriety to their advantage without the correct permission, the group’s legal statements informed.
The prints on the merchandise include sayings such as “Pharrell is my brotha” and “Kanye is my homie” and also include Beyoncé’s and Rihanna’s song lyrics. The stars’ faces have been used on merchandise including T-shirts, sweatshirts, tank tops, sneakers and even phone cases. These images show the stars in ski masks that only allow their eyes to be seen or the celebrities holding their fingers above their mouths with a mustache drawn on. These prints continued to be sold even after the group sent cease warnings to Eleven Paris to stop the selling of the merchandise online and in all stores, including their flagship on Prince Street in New York. As of today, the merchandise is no longer available in the Family Capsule collection on the website. The Family Capsule collection, however, still includes references to Karl Lagerfeld and Kate Moss, who modeled for the company last year. These celebs as well as others are not expected to sue. Those prints only include the first names of the stars, which may be why Eleven Paris has been able to get away with these infringements.
A huge plot twist in this case is that the last complaint filed only pertains to Beyoncé. It states that Eleven Paris breached a hushed agreement between the star and the company in January, although no one is sure of what that agreement entailed and what specifically had been broken. Solange Knowles, Beyoncé’s well-known sister, is a model for the company. Her picture appears on the company’s website, and she also was their muse for the SS15 collection. It seems strange that Beyoncé would sue a company that her own sister is highly involved in. Kanye West also has familial ties to Eleven Paris. His sister-in-law, Kylie Jenner, is a big supporter of the brand and has been seen sporting their T-shirts in the past. Even with all of these allegations against superstars, many A-list celebrities support the brand by wearing the apparel, such as Justin Bieber and Cara Delevingne.
The plaintiffs all have their own clothing lines or collaborate with other companies, which is why they are suing for unfair competition. For example, Kanye West has his own brand, Yeezy, and is collaborating with Adidas. Rihanna is the creative director for Puma and has previously designed for River Island. The use of these celebrities’ names creates competition against their own brands and gives consumers the opportunity to purchase products flaunting these celebrities without them receiving any compensation for the sale.
This very high profile case will definitely hinder Eleven Paris’ future. In their statement regarding the lawsuit, they said that negotiations with these famous five have been happening for nearly a year and that they want to “find a fair and balanced agreement with them and their advisers.” As of right now, the stars are demanding that Eleven Paris stop all manufacturing of products involving them and give them any profits made as well as pay for legal fees.