Legendary street artist Futura is suing the North Face clothing company for allegedly knocking off his signature motif in a recent line of apparel.
Futura claims that the North Face illegally copied the stylized atom design that has for years appeared throughout his artwork in its 2019 series of waterproof outerwear called “FUTURELIGHT.”
“The similarity of the graphic designs and the names is no coincidence: [North Face] purposefully invoked [Futura] in order to suggest an association with him,” read the artist’s filing, which was submitted to the California Central District Court yesterday. Citing copyright infringement, the artist is now seeking an unspecified amount in damages and calling for the products to be removed from the marketplace.
“The North Face seems like they care a lot about being cool,” Futura’s lawyer, Jeff Gluck, told Artnet News. “This is probably the most uncool thing they have ever done.”
Representatives from the North Face did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The artist, born Leonard McGurr, was alerted to The North Face’s new line in 2019 via messages from friends and fans. “Everyone assumed it was an official collaboration,” Gluck said. “People were shocked to learn it was all unauthorized. It’s just so blatant.”
The lawyer says he contacted the company that year to resolve his client’s claims but “they had no interest.”
Over the course of his career, Futura has lent his designs to a number of high-profile corporate clients, including Nike, Uniqlo, and Comme des Garçons. The artist even designed a custom jacket for the North Face in 2004.
A lifelong New Yorker, Futura made a name for himself spray-painting futuristic, often abstract designs on subway cars in the early ’70s. (He went by the name Futura 2000 back then.) By the dawn of the next decade, he was showing in galleries alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Kenny Scharf—a group now referred to as the “Subway School” of artists.
With two recent exhibitions at Eric Firestone Gallery and the Noguchi Museum, Futura was the subject of a lengthy profile last month in the New York Times, where he was referred to as a “King of Graffiti.”
“My ambition to be successful in a monetary way never interested me,” he said in the article. “I just wanted to support my family, take care of my children. As it turns out, I’m actually doing much better now, so I guess it’s a question of my patience. I stayed positive, even when things weren’t there for me, or I saw other people running past me on the track of life. But here I am.”