miley's vma sequins cause intellectual property controversy

Aussie design duo Di$count Universe are 'distraught' about Miley wearing outfits resembling their work at the VMAs.

by Briony Wright
02 September 2015, 2:31pm

Two nights ago, Miley Cyrus hosted a particularly eventful VMAs. While she used the stage as a platform for herself and the great causes she's become a powerful advocate for, she also had a fair number of quirky outfit changes. According to her long time stylist, Simone Harouche, the pop provocateur was actively involved in all her looks: "Miley is completely involved in the entire aesthetic process, from start to finish," said Harouche. While the singer's wardrobe decisions represented just one element of her performance, the subsequent outcry in response to some of those decisions has been resounding.

While many of Miley's outfits incorporated controversial elements, it's the sequined suits with third-eye and mouth details that have set the internet alight with debate. Colorful sequins incorporating faces are a hallmark of Australian label Di$count Universe, who Miley has worked with regularly in the past. But the Aussie design duo didn't make the pieces. The VMA costumes also resembled the work of Romance Was Born -- who crafted a dress with eyes and a mouth in 2008 -- as well as the work of Jeremy Scott, who Miley has a close relationship with. But neither the Sydeny-based label nor Moschino's main man made the pieces.  

Instead, they looks were created by Brad Callahan and his label, BCalla. Since the performance, the Di$count designers Cami James and Nadia Napreychikov have taken to Instagram, suggesting that Miley had co-opted their identity:  "…the one thing you can't TAKE and get away with is someone's IDENTITY."

Romance Was Born dress from 2008

While we can imagine the shock of seeing someone you've dressed before wearing something they could, and possibly should, have asked you to make, declaring identity theft is probably taking things too far. Miley's support of Di$count Universe has been great for the brand and provided the kind of exposure most labels dream of. For Miley to ask BCalla -- an American designer who's actively involved in the LGBT scene -- to create outfits for her and her drag performer posse makes a lot of sense.

The ensuing war of words between Harouche and the Di$count Universe designers has been negative and largely unhelpful. Big corporations ripping off the work of independent designers is one thing, but it's increasingly impossible to own ideas in these times. Ryan from the label Tome put it well in a Facebook post when he said:

"Everything is borrowed and reinterpreted. Nothing is owned. The Ancient Italians borrowed from the Ancient Greeks (who in turn evolved and borrowed from older civilizations) and thus Modern Civilization was born. NOTHING IS NEW. Also as we put together our new SS16 collection at TOME it is very frustrating to know that Phoebe Philo has done everything before. EVERYTHING! So shut up. Case Closed."

Miley Cyrus
di$count universe
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