Marc Jacobs Says He Didn’t Steal Nirvana Logo for T-shirt, Claims He Invented Grunge
With respect to comedic assertions of prowess, we had long thought that nothing would ever top the account by Dr. Evil, in “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery,” that his father would revel in making “outrageous claims like he invented the question mark.” That stance changed when we learned that on Friday, Marc Jacobs, already a pre-judged member of our copyright doghouse, countered a suit against him by Nirvana by asserting that he, and not that band and its contemporaries, introduced us all to grunge fashion. Five days after his demand that the legal confrontation disappear, we are intensely wondering how convincing he thinks he will be in drumming up support for the contention that his Bootleg Redux Grunge collection did not copy components of the Seattle trio’s trademarked happy face logo.
We were far from being the epitome of impartiality in our January look at this matter, dubbing the Perry Ellis-issued T-shirt, sweatshirt and socks “knockoffs” that relied a little too liberally on Nirvana’s 1992-protected identifier. Since Jacobs and Courtney Love, the widow of the group’s fallen leader, Kurt Cobain, have reportedly remained in close contact since the 1994 death of the frontman, we knew it would be a matter of minimal time before the fashion hotshot would plan his rebuttal.
While whatever connection Jacobs has to Love and her daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, would come up in court, given that it appeared in his counterargument, the 55-year-old award-winning bigwig might run into trouble with respect to timing and the dismissal request’s admission that “The [heaven] design was inspired by vintage Nirvana concert T-shirts from the 1990s—the era of ‘grunge’ fashion.”
— SPIN (@SPIN) March 11, 2019
In terms of timing, Jacobs issued his original collection in 1993, a year after Nirvana had already acquired a trademark for its aforementioned logo. One wonders why no legal action occurred back then, since it appears pretty obvious that the inspiration he drew from the positive symbol led to an homage that is a little too similar to what Cobain and his bandmates used in gaining critical and commercial success. Times being what they are now, though, with so many people getting in touch with their litigious sides, the group is seeing Jacobs’ reissue as an affront to its logo.
Regarding the designer’s admission that such motivation to craft the collection came about thanks to Nirvana T-shirts, one wonders how he could lay claim to being the originator of grunge fashion. Doesn’t Nirvana deserve that distinction, to an extent? Spin gives an interesting account of the whole matter, noting that Jacobs feels his collection gave grunge garments the widespread acceptance that Nirvana’s arrival on the music scene initiated. In other words, he appears to be saying it took his skills to give grunge apparel added clout and that when he “reinterpreted the design,” as his dismissal decree states, he did not blatantly pilfer their concept.
We are all for being a fanboy or fangirl, but there are limits to how far that regard can extend. Jacobs is going to have to prove that his admiration did not overstep legal boundaries and violate Nirvana’s logo. It will be interesting to see what a court concludes because, well, frankly, we find it tough to look at his Heaven design items and not automatically think of the band’s smiley face symbol, and we are saying that without having known before January of Jacobs’ ties to the group, his affinity for the T-shirt designs that inspired the questioned work and his retained bond with Love and her daughter. In other words, it looks as if Kurt Cobain’s legacy could have another interesting coda.