Company behind offending design says similarities are "coincidental," will investigate possible infringement
UPDATE: Kohl's has removed the offending T-shirt from their website. We've received no further comments from Freeze CMI, the company that designed the questionable apparel, but this is certainly a victory for the artist. Now go buy yourself something nice.
According to DFA duo YACHT — and people with working eyeballs everywhere — Kohl's and Burlington Coat Factory are selling a T-shirt that appears to be inspired by the group's lyrics and design style. The Los Angeles dance usurpers put a great deal of energy into their imagery, which ties directly into the themes found in their music. They're big on triangles, ultra-modern sans-serif fonts and messages about the afterlife, among other things.
The shirt depicted above utilizes all three of those in a manner that makes coincidence seem hard to swallow — especially when one considers the words written across the torso: "If I can't go to heaven, then I'm going to LA." The titular track of YACHT's 2011 album Shangri-La includes the lyric, repeated several times, "If I can't go to heaven, let me go to L.A." The colorful poster shown to the right of the shirt has been in circulation for quite some time.
YACHT posted the image above to Tumblr along with this message: "Listen, we’re interested in how ideas circulate through popular culture, but this 'If I Can’t Go To Heaven' triangle T-shirt is too much. Kohl’s is a huge corporate entity that stands to make way more money off our lyrics and design than we ever will. Please share this image and let Kohl’s know it’s not OK to rip independent artists off this blatantly. #corporatemakeover ☮♥▲, YACHT"
SPIN spoke to YACHT's Claire L. Evans, who explained, "It's possible we'd never have seen it, but a fan came to our show San Francisco last weekend wearing the shirt. We thought she made it herself, but she'd actually bought it at Burlington Coat Factory, where she worked. It's designed by a company called Freeze CMI, which is sold at Kohl's and Burlington. It might be an in-house brand or exclusive to those companies, we're not sure."
We also reached out the licensing department at Freeze, whose representative promised she was unfamiliar with the band [sad smiangle], and that, "I will look into the matter 100 percent. We are well versed in copyright law and do monitor our designs legally. If there are similarities in this case, I will look into and rectify. But trust they are coincidental, not intended." Her company has done approved designs for the Beatles, Pink Floyd, and others.
Evans isn't yet sure of YACHT's next move. "Litigation is expensive and time-consuming, and it might be a losing battle — the Kohl's design might be just beyond the realm of on-paper copyright infringement. Incredibly, a couple fans who are lawyers have stepped forward and offered to take on the case pro bono, so we're examining our options. We're hoping the mounting support from fans and friends directed at Kohl's social media gets their attention."