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22 Dec

H&M Pulls Justin Bieber Collection

Lower than 24 hours after stating that it might proceed to sell a collaborative collection with Justin Bieber — despite the musician publicly criticizing those designs and saying he didn’t approve them — H&M has reversed course and has stopped selling the pieces.

On Monday, Bieber posted to Instagram Stories that he hadn’t approved any of the H&M collection, posting “All without my permission and approval [SMH] I wouldn’t buy it if I were you.”

He later posted to his 270 million Instagram followers: “H&M merch they made from me is trash and I didn’t approve it. Don’t buy it.”

The Swedish fast-fashion chain countered that claim on Monday, telling WWD that “as with other licensed products and partnerships, H&M followed proper approval and procedures.” At the moment, the corporate said the merchandise would remain on sale but said “we’d like to look into this more to grasp, before we take motion.”

By Tuesday, nonetheless, H&M had modified its tune a bit. In a press release, the retailer reiterated Bieber’s involvement, but noted that the designs aren’t any longer being sold. An organization spokesperson told WWD Wednesday, “As mentioned in our previous statement, H&M has followed proper approval procedures. Out of respect for the collaboration and Justin Bieber, we’ve got removed the clothes from our stores and online.” 

Bieber’s image was featured on a dress, sweatshirt, T-shirt and tote bag. A phone case and one $40 hoodie were imprinted with “I miss you greater than life” — a reference to the lyrics from his song, “Ghost.”

The alliance was not a one-hit wonder for the Grammy winner and the Swedish retail behemoth. The 2 parties had teamed up back in 2017 for a “Stadium Tour” collaboration, after Bieber had canceled the last leg of his “Purpose” tour dates. The assortment consisted of hoodies, T-shirts with graphic designs, bomber jackets and sweatpants that were paying homage to his official tour merchandise.

Given their social media reach, global superstars like Bieber have the influence to sway tens of millions of consumers toward or away from a brand. Prior to now few years, select incidents have led to legal motion, including a lawsuit that Ariana Grande brought against Eternally 21 in 2019.

The country or region through which the agreement was filed is critical because the laws of copyrights, trademarks, design rights and image rights vary or in some cases don’t exist, in keeping with Stephen Sidkin, partner at Fox Williams LLP and chair of its fashion law group. Citing Rihanna’s 2015 legal motion against Topshop [for the use of her image on a T-shirt without her permission], he said that was successful in broad terms, but possibly to not the extent that she had anticipated.

From his view, the worst-case scenario could be for Bieber and H&M to wind up in court, since the litigation would prone to turn into public record and will potentially impact whether other brands decide to work with them.

While having a well-drafted agreement is one thing, “properly policing, monitoring or enforcing that agreement” is one other matter, Sidkin said. All in all, wherever possible parties that may protect their mental property by registration, “they need to grab it with each hands,” Sidkin said.

One other attorney Danielle Garno, a partner at Holland & Knight, who has worked with talent and types in similar collaborative deals, said brands seeking to avoid similar situations like this one, which might have been great publicity, actually need to grasp which approvals they’re giving to the talent, in addition to following the contract. “If you happen to can, it’s at all times good to provide them a sample. Approval is at all times a battle between brands and talent, since you don’t want talent standing in the way in which of selling and getting things out into the market,” Garno said.

A standard mistake with collaborations is the push to get the product into the market, she said. “I might caution brands to make sure that the product looks like and is aligned with the aesthetic and quality of what you are attempting to place on the market and what the talent bargained for. It’s one thing to see a tear sheet or something on the screen. It’s one other thing to see it in real life. It’s really a high quality control issue.”  

The H&M spokesperson didn’t respond immediately as as to if the retailer is considering or has taken any legal motion against the 28-year-old musician. A representative for Bieber didn’t respond immediately Wednesday to a request for comment regarding any potential legal motion against H&M.

He and his wife Hailey have an abundance of endorsement deals and business ventures, including her recent launch of Rhode Beauty.

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