Amaya Contreras Driggs
Fashion lines, 2.7 million Instagram followers, an architectural digest feature, a New York Times best-selling book–albeit with a dagger–and a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. WeWoreWhat (WWW) fashion-and-lifestyle blogger, designer, entrepreneur, and influencer, Danielle Bernstein has surpassed a plethora of milestones at only twenty-nine years old, yet she has a pattern of stealing designs, from small businesses.
Numerous videos have gone viral on TikTok outlining allegations from small boutiques and labels claiming WWW had deliberately copied their designs. These controversies go back to 2018, when a popular Instagram account, Diet Prada, also called WWW out.  Bernstein/WWW has allegedly copied designs for pendant necklaces, masks, swimwear, dresses, skirts, tissue paper, and more.
Bernstein’s modus operandi feels predatory as she often meets with or messages the businesses before copying designs. With Foundrae, the brand shared that Bernstein went over their home to see jewelry and they let her borrow pieces several times.  “How is it not personal when you let a person into your home, let them wear your pieces, and then she knocks it off?? It's an abuse of privilege, taking advantage of access,” they posted. Bernstein apologized and acknowledged the accusations on Instagram and said the jewelry line was inspired by a vintage locket that she purchased at a market following the passing of her grandfather. But later Diet Prada noticed that a few of the other pieces looked very similar to other jewelry designers. With a Latina-owned small business, Second Wind, Bernstein solicited free samples of a face mask, and then proceeded to release an almost identical product. Bernstein informed Karen Perez, the designer, by direct messaging her “Babe I thought I should let you know I’m also making masks with a detachable chain - similar to the sunglass chains I own - didn’t want you to think I’m copying you!” Perez decided to disclose the interactions with Bernstein and received an influx of messages from people who say they have gone through the same thing. With Black-owned brand, We Are Kin, designer Ngoni Chikwenengere, shared another similar situation involving a silk dress in Bernstein’s clothing line after Bernstein asked her for a dress as a gift. Another Black designer, Khala Whitney, shared that Bernstein bought one of her skirts in 2017, wore it to Fashion Week, on an Instagram post, and a Youtube video (both have been deleted since), and then had a very similar design in her collection–Whitney had also communicated with Bernstein beforehand.  And founders of the small activewear brand Live The Process said they sent Bernstein clothes at her request, and she then copied the company’s shirt and its signature minimalist photography style. The list continues.
Bernstein has declined to respond to most allegations but defends her work as authentic, saying “[w]e’re a trend-based company, and I think there’s a big misperception about that. We’re never claiming to reinvent the wheel…[Our products] don’t look similar to other things out there. They’re just our take on a trend.” Brands like Shein and H&M, are known for fast fashion and making billions even while imitating smaller designers, but Bernstein distances herself from that and instead has commented “[i]t’s always a shame when the high street copies a young brand because you don’t even get to start before a bigger company takes what you do.” Ironic.
To fight back against the prevailing and controversial rhetoric of stealing from smaller businesses, or perhaps for more press–since these issues generated more sales–Bernstein filed suit against Brooklyn lingerie startup The Great Eros after the brand accused her of copying the design of its signature packaging. Bernstein argues that its design was independently created and “inspired by the generally ubiquitous concept of silhouette drawings of the human form along with a number of Henri Matisse’s line drawings,” and that no one owns the concept of silhouettes of the human form. Eros filed its own lawsuit against Bernstein and WWW, alleging that they copied the pattern of female nudes featured on Eros’ tissue paper and sold merchandise with the stolen design. Eros’ lawyer says there is evidence (showroom logs and requests from Bernstein for free merchandise from the brand) that Bernstein was familiar with the brand prior to making the designs in question–matching her M.O. Eros asserted copyright infringement, unfair competition and unauthorized use of its print, and has since also been granted successful registration of its design with the U.S. Copyright Office. The suit is still pending.
As small businesses, many of the designers that have accused Bernstein of stealing their designs do not have the capital or the following of WWW, so any social media credit or a proper collaboration could strongly benefit their businesses. Bernstein claims to stand up for underrepresented individuals and portrays herself as an advocate of small businesses while continuously taking from them. Eros expressed they will gladly fight back against Bernstein and her oppression, and relentlessly pursue justice against her, and warn her that in this suit all small independent designers are united against her. But copyright protection is not very strong when it comes to fashion design since fashion’s dual nature, as inherently also functional, sits uneasily in intellectual property law. Also, with trends are constantly rotating and reiterating, fashion is a self-repeating cycle in which brands try to keep up with the newest demands. If so, no actual stealing and copying can be done. Strong IP regulations could also prevent designers from creating freely, and further developing older trends. But what Bernstein has done to these small businesses is “malicious and opportunistic”, so, if the law is not able to keep up with trends, and fast fashion, hopefully, social media awareness, spearheaded by Diet Prada and TikTokers that have spoken out, can encourage people to buy from small businesses and ethical brands that credit, instead of the bigger corporations that take from them.
 A dagger indicates that some retailers report receiving bulk orders. About the Best Sellers, The New York Times (Dec. 1, 2021), https://www.nytimes.com/books/best-sellers/methodology/.
 Florence O’Connor, TikTok Collectively Roasts Controversial Influencer, The Cut (Mar. 5, 2021), https://www.thecut.com/2021/03/weworewhat-gets-roasted-by-tiktok.html.
 For these items, the original designs were from Foundrae, Retrouvai, Bondeye Jewelry, Tiffany & Co., Cecilie Bahnsen, We Are Kin, Grayscale, Second Wind, and Great Eros.
 Dara Prant, We Wore What Is in Hot Water Over Allegedly Copying Jewelry Designs [Updated], Fashionista
(May 7, 2018), https://fashionista.com/2018/05/danielle-bernstein-we-wore-what-jewelry-copy-diet-prada-allegations
 Eliza Huber, Karen Perez of Second Wind Wants to Move On After Danielle Bernstein Mask Controversy, Refinery 29 (July 23, 2020), https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2020/07/9928708/danielle-bernstein-we-wore-what-mask-copy-second-wind-karen-perez
 Celia Fernandez and Claudia Willen, Danielle Bernstein is being accused of copying a dress design by another brand. Here are some of the WeWoreWhat founder’s biggest controversies, Insider (Feb. 8, 2021)
 Alexandra Sternlicht, Under Fire, Danielle Bernstein Is Leaving Macy’s—Taking Full Control of Her Eponymous Label, Forbes (Mar. 16, 2016), https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexandrasternlicht/2021/03/16/danielle-bernstein-is-leaving-macys-taking-full-control-of-her-eponymous-label/?sh=1a858258673f
 Fernandez and Willen, Insider (Feb. 8, 2021).
 Dhani Mau, The Great Eros Called Out WeWoreWhat, Brand Fires Back with Lawsuit [Updated], Fashionista
(Oct. 16, 2020), https://fashionista.com/2020/10/danielle-bernstein-weworewhat-the-great-eros-lawsuit-copyright?utm_campaign=Above%20the%20Law%20Daily&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=98003873&_hsenc=p2ANqtz--N-V27m6RzjhCh8iHlVzPG1eBedU4i_W7HZmnrg0bh_5WTxiKflUcp4v8YPNcPXHNji-PBIhpi8fAcxf76Mlu2FSUn55VQmTT3J6JLOyH5Jz2_YLE&utm_content=98003873&utm_source=hs_email
 Fernandez and Willen, Insider (Feb. 8, 2021).
 Id; Mau, Fashionista (Oct. 16, 2020),
 Mau, Fashionista (Oct. 16, 2020),
 Christopher Buccafusco & Jeanne C. Fromer, Fashion’s Function in Intellectual Property Law, 93 Notre Dame L. Rev. 51 (2017), https://scholarship.law.nd.edu/ndlr/vol93/iss1/2.
 Isabella Caito, If copyright law won’t protect small fashion brands against copying, social media will – just ask influencer Danielle Bernstein, NYU Journal of Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law (Apr. 26, 2021), https://blog.jipel.law.nyu.edu/2021/04/if-copyright-law-wont-protect-small-fashion-brands-against-copying-social-media-will-just-ask-influencer-danielle-bernstein/