DKNY ‘inadvertently’ steals photographer’s work, social media justice quickly served

DKNY Bankok

In an example of social media bolstering corporate accountability within the fashion industry, Donna Karan New York (DKNY), an American fashion label, has made a $25,000 donation after allegedly stealing the work of a street style photographer and using it as part of its window campaign.

Brandon Stanton, the photographer whose work was in question, made his grievance public in a post tagging the company’s Facebook page. The Humans of New York founder wrote that he was approached by a DKNY representative, who asked to purchase 300 of his photos for $15,000 to use in the label’s “Only in NYC” campaign. Stanton refused, seemingly confident he could ask for more. His new asking price was declined by DKNY, he wrote.

Months later, on Feb. 25, 3013, Stanton was surprised to learn that DKNY had used some of his images anyway. He was contacted by a fan who noticed Stanton’s photographs in the window of DKNY’s Bankok store.

Stanton’s public appeal asked the company to donate $100,000 on his behalf to the YMCA in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, rather than compensating him. The post received over 36,000 shares and likes, each, as of press time as well as over four thousand comments urging the company to make good on his request. 

Patti Cohen, executive vice president of global marketing and communications at DKNY, wrote in an email that Stanton’s photos made it into its store’s window as the result of an accident. Cohen confirmed that Stanton was approached for the project, but added that its Bankok store had inadvertently displayed an internal mockup — which was only supposed to guide its spring visual campaign — using some of Stanton’s images.

Less than three hours after Stanton’s initial post, DKNY issued a public apology echoing Cohen’s statement and made a $25,000 donation to the YMCA. However, moments after the apology was issued, Aliza Licht, DKNY’s senior vice president of global communications, tweeted her disappointment that Stanton had chosen to turn to social media to air his grievances.

Stanton issued a final post in which he seemed satisfied by DKNY’s response.

“$25k will help a lot of kids at the YMCA,” he wrote, thanking his supporters. “I know a lot of you would like to have seen the full $100k, but we are going to take them at their word that it was a mistake, and be happy that this one had a happy ending.”

Editor’s note: Mr. Stanton could not be immediately be reached for further comment.


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