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Protestors Accuse Designer Lauren Moshi of Being a ‘Culture Vulture’ Who ‘Steals from POC Artists,’ Hold Rally Outside Her Store in West Hollywood

[dropcap size=big]O[/dropcap]ver four dozen protestors gathered in front of the Lauren Moshi store in West Hollywood on Saturday afternoon to protest the designer’s appropriation of local artists’ work. 

Xiana Tlacotl, the organizer of the protest, is an activist, designer, and musician. She’s also a friend of Danny Fuentes, a local artist and the owner and curator of Lethal Amounts, an art gallery, clothing line, and nightlife promoter, including working as an assistant tour manager for Glenn Danzig and working as Morrissey's personal bodyguard. Fuentes is one of several artists whose work has been appropriated by Moshi’s line, along with local photographer Estevan Oriol, whose 1995 photo of “L.A. Fingers” has been branded on T-shirts by numerous brands and designers, including Lauren Moshi.

Fuentes’ brand began with a logo: two safety pins opened and layered in the shape of an “L” and an “A.” L.A. Magazine reported last month that in 2018, Fuentes realized Moshi had started using a startlingly similar version of his logo on t-shirts, a logo that he’d registered in 2012 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. That July, he sent a cease and desist letter to Lauren Moshi. In return, she sued him, claiming that Fuentes didn’t have the right to the trademark. The nearly year-long legal battle that ensued drained Fuentes financially and otherwise, something Tlacotl points out as seeming very intentional on Moshi’s part.

“I learned this is her business model. She does the exact same thing. She sees something, takes it, hangs in her window display, says she made it up, then makes shirts, etc. and expects to be sued, but she has a lot more resources. She probably budgets for that.” Tlacotl said, adding that she is trying to bring awareness to Moshi’s business model because “That’s what it clearly is.”

Lauren Moshi’s store clerk walked by the store’s door and recorded protestors on his phone. At times, noticeably laughing while doing so.

Nancy Marie Arteaga met Fuentes through Lethal Amounts' role as an events space and appreciated the “special touch” Fuentes’s events added to L.A.’s nightlife scene. The two have been friends for about three years. She was unable to speak at length about what she’s seen Fuentes go through for legal reasons, but told the Taco, “It sucks to see your best friend go from high [highs] to such a low as to where he is unsure of how he’s going to get through the month.”

Arteaga was also involved in Saturday’s protest, where people gathered starting 1 PM and stayed until 4 PM under the full afternoon sun. Protestors, dressed mostly in black, handed out flyers to passersby, many of whom weren’t aware of the ongoing appropriation, and explained that Moshi was a “culture vulture” who was appropriating a facet of L.A. culture that is not her own. Flyers had photos on one side that showed side-by-side comparisons of original designs along with co-opted iterations of those designs on Moshi’s work. On the other side, the flyer included the following paragraph: “Lauren Moshi has been appropriating, plagiarizing and using TRADEMARKED designs from eastside artists long enough. Lauren Moshi has made a career off the backs of other artists' work and claiming it as their own. IT IS THEIR BUSINESS MODEL?”

Courtesy of Nancy Marie Arteaga's GoFundMe account.

Protestors took the time to explain to passersby that this case shed light on elements of L.A. culture that are at odds with regard to race, geography, and more. They strongly believe that Moshi is co-opting Latino culture, punk culture, eastside culture. Those involved in the artists’ struggle with the designer also showed a divide between those who have the resources to fight—time, money, access to lawyers—and those who do not.

A Facebook event for the protest was called “POC Artists Protest Against Lauren Moshi.” While Fuentes and his lawyers were not connected with the protest themselves, protestors included supporters of Lethal Amounts and the events the brand hosts. 

One passerby walked through the picket line and said, 'Fuck Moshi.'

“Danny is a promoter and he puts on some of the best events in Los Angeles and has given a home to a lot of POC artists and QPOC artists,” Tlacotl said. “I had my event there. He also opened it up for a pop-up to support reproductive rights. All these events, he lets them use his gallery for free. So that’s why a lot of people support this protest because Lethal Amounts has helped a lot of people who normally wouldn’t have a space. He’s created a community. At his event he let me set up a table to register people to vote during the primaries. […] But the protest is more than that. We’re just tired of people stealing ideas and work from POC artists. This is not [the] first design [that has] been stolen and it won’t be the last but enough is enough.”

One passerby walked through the picket line and said, “Fuck Moshi.” A few times throughout the afternoon, Lauren Moshi’s store clerk walked by the store’s door and recorded protestors on his phone. At times, noticeably laughing while doing so.

'She’s definitely stealing.' 

Marianna Costa is a manager at James Perse, a store nearby Lauren Moshi. She says she’s thought before that Moshi’s designs looked familiar, but that she didn’t think much of it. “I kind of recognize it. And I’ve thought of this before, you know? Like I’ve seen this,” she said. “But it’s happening, so there is a connection. She’s definitely stealing.” 

Protestors repeated a few chants throughout the afternoon, including, “Say it loud, say it clear: Culture vulture ain’t welcome here,” and “When our community is under attack, What do we do? Stand up, fight back.”

Arteaga has set up a GoFundMe for Lethal Amounts.

L.A. Taco has reached out to Lauren Moshi for comment but has not heard back. We will update accordingly. Danny Fuentes was unavailable for comment. 

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