In yesterday's post we looked at modernism in architecture via a building designed by Kenneth Frampton. But when we talk about art, design and modernist designs, or rather early modernist works, the mind wanders to the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops). The cooperative of artisans started in 1903 by graphic designer and painter Koloman Moser and architect Josef Hoffmann was a key organization for the development of modernism and anticipated the Bauhaus.
The Wiener Werkstätte produced also textiles characterised by bold patterns and shapes, such as the tropical jungle suspended between primitivism and exoticism entitled "Urwald" (1910-11), designed by painter, etcher and lithographer L.H. Jungnickel.
The print was recently reused by Zara in one of their men's shirts, and if you're wondering if they ever asked anybody for any kind of permission, well, the answer is obviously no, but this story has got a hilarious twist about it.
At the beginning of April I contacted the MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art in Vienna that preserves the Wiener Werkstätte Archive asking them if Zara ever got in touch with them to learn more about the print and its copyright, and they contacted Zara. Rather than admitting of borrowing Jungnickel print as it was, Zara actually explained them they were copying not the Wiener Werkstätte, but a pattern from Prada or some kind of other contemporary brand (according to the words of the museum curator I contacted to research the issue).
Zara may have been able to contact Peter Weber, descendant of Jungnickel, expert of his works and estate manager, to ask for permission (but they didn't so, preferring in the end to quietly remove the shirt from their current online selection...), now, while that was bad enough, admitting to copying another brand is simply even more hilarious.
Mind you, by pointing out they were copying Prada they were rather honest: the current collection features indeed shirts with palms evoking the post-nuclear Hawaiian print from Prada's S/S 14 collection, sailors' themes à la Prada A/W 16, Giorgio Morandi-inspired still lives reminiscent of the ones we saw in Prada's A/W17 collection and comics prints calling to mind Prada's S/S 18 designs. In a way it is perfectly understandable that they preferred admitting copying a major fashion brand as that's a major sport considered legitimate in our times rather than admitting lifting a 1910 print and reproducing it on one of their shirts, as they got probably more scared about being sued by a museum/archive or by the heirs of the artist (famous fashion houses end up avoiding sueing fast fashion groups for these sort of copying exercises otherwise they would spend their lives sueing them...), but, if you think about it, the whole story sounds rather hilarious.