Taylor Swift is ‘happy to make a contribution’ to ‘The Folklore’ business owner

Taylor Swift wearing Atelier Versace arrives at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards

As we discussed, Taylor Swift is in some hot water. Or maybe just “very warm water.” While Taylor dropped her latest album, folklore, with zero advanced press or fanfare, she did organize a huge merchandise campaign, and originally, the merch included the label “The Folklore Album.” The labels looked a lot like the labels/branding for The Folklore, a Black-owned business. Amira Rasool owns The Folklore, and as soon as she caught a glimpse of Taylor’s merch, she contacted Taylor’s people. Taylor and Rasool’s teams have been talking and Taylor has already changed the labels, dropping “the” from “the folklore album.” Rasool said more to WWD:

When Amira Rasool saw the merch one week ago: “I was so surprised and so shocked and it was really devastating. I saw it happen to small Black business owners, and I was really sad,” she said. She had her lawyers at Fenwick & West reach out to Swift’s team to let them know about the similarity in the logo design and how it was causing confusion in the market. Rasool said she had already received an e-mail from one of Swift’s fans inquiring about the album’s digital download.

This is interesting: “The main thing was having ‘The Folklore’ when the album was just called ‘Folklore,’” Rasool said. She also believes there was similarity to the way the word “the” in the logo was vertically placed. She said if one Googles “The Folklore,” Rasool’s logo comes up, and she feels Swift’s people would have seen that. Swift is making sweatshirts and merchandise, along with a cardigan that ties in with one of her songs.

Taylor’s management’s statement: “Yesterday, we were made aware of a complaint that the specific use of the word ‘the’ before ‘Folklore album’ on some of the Folklore album merchandise was of concern. Absolutely no merchandise using ‘the’ before the words “Folklore Album” has been manufactured or sent out. In good faith, we honored her request and immediately notified everyone who had ordered merchandise with the word ‘the’ preceding ‘Folklore Album,’ that they will now receive their order with the design change.”

What The Folklore is all about: The Folklore, a New York-based web site that received its trademark in 2018, features more than 30 designers from Africa and the diaspora and serves as a cultural hub for contemporary brands, artists and creates to showcase their personal stories. Most of the fashion, accessories and homewares are handmade by local artisans based in South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco and Cote D’Ivoire. In addition to operating as an online concept store, The Folklore also provides wholesale services to African designer brands interested in penetrating the global retail market. “It’s not just damaging to one Black woman, it’s all the brands that we work with,” Rasool said. All of her web site’s merchandise says “The Folklore” on its hangtags, but the actual designer’s name is on the inside label. Rasool said she eventually plans to make merchandise with “The Folklore” label.

The snake fam attacked Rasool: Rasool said Swift’s fans were attacking her on Twitter for speaking out “and calling me b—h and a liar…She [Taylor] has stood up and defended her trademarks before. She’s a big proponent of people standing up and speaking out. For me to be attacked and say I’m doing this for attention…,” she said. People on Twitter were vehement, saying there was no similarity in the logo’s design. But the name is the same. “I think there was a lot of damage to my brand for me speaking out. I don’t think I deserved that.”

[From WWD]

Interesting how WWD dropped the most important legal issue in there – Rasool owns the trademark for “The Folklore.” And before last week, “The Folklore” site was one of the first hits on Google, so clearly… people on Taylor’s team did not do their due diligence before the merchandise was made. I also think the statement from Taylor’s team doesn’t make much sense – “Absolutely no merchandise using ‘the’ before the words “Folklore Album” has been manufactured or sent out.” Clearly, the merch was manufactured. The merch was not sent out, because they began changing the labels (to the merch which was manufactured!). I mean, how did Rasool know there was an issue if the merch had not already been manufactured, you know?

Anyway, all of that to say, Taylor did respond to one of Rasool’s tweets yesterday. I feel like Taylor is trying to do right. Now. After her team clearly f–ked up and after her unhinged fans attacked Rasool online. Also: “contribution to your company” might be code for Taylor paying a quiet settlement for stepping all over Rasool’s trademark.

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Taylor Swift shows off her legs as she leaves her apartment in New York

Photos courtesy of Backgrid, Taylor’s social media.

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52 Responses to “Taylor Swift is ‘happy to make a contribution’ to ‘The Folklore’ business owner”

  1. Kimma1216 says:

    I’m not a huge Swift fan, but I have to believe she isn’t the one coming up with her marketing ideas and purposely/consciously stealing from anyone (white or black etc) There is a team behind her making these decisions. So, to come down on Swift herself truly isn’t fair. However it is good that she’s recognizing and trying to make it right. I

    • Shannon says:

      I agree. The logo itself is very generic. Let’s not pretend it was some months long devious plot to steal the logo of a company because she’s Taylor and she’s terrible. The mistake was made, they immediately changed their logo, and apologised. Stop trying to make this into a thing.

    • Anony83 says:

      I’m not a huge Swift fan, though I’m enjoying folklore (partially because it’s honestly not that much like her more pop stuff).

      I will say, I’ve done trademark work in the past and I’m kind of surprised “The Folklore” alone has a trademark unless it’s also a design mark – which are more narrowly enforced (and while the fonts were similar, they weren’t identical). And just because a mark has been registered doesn’t mean it’s enforceable.

      THAT BEING SAID, I think asking Taylor (and her agreeing) to take the “the” off her merch is a small ask (and that hasn’t been manufactured yet, it’s clearly a digital rendering – I mean the sweater probably yes but not the logo…not that it matter) and in this day in age, the people around artists like Taylor need to be taking a bigger picture approach to this kind of marketing. The question shouldn’t be “can we” it should be “SHOULD we” and there the answer was clearly no. But I think Taylor’s handling this well, the Snake Fam of course, continues to be off the rails.

    • osito says:

      I don’t think anyone *is* coming down on Swift, hence the problem with the rush to defend her. Amira Rasool says that her lawyers contacted the team, and things moved quickly and in a positive direction. That’s actually a really good thing. The problem was and continues to be that Swift’s fans are attacking Rasool and the brand and refuse to acknowledge that anything related to Swift could possibly be wrong. Swift can protect herself, and does in issues like this *routinely.* Her lawyers wake up ready. So I find it odd and corrosive that people not on her payroll clock in to do things for her that she has acknowledged don’t need to be done.

      The dismissive “but this wasn’t intentional,” is also a red herring. It doesn’t matter. It happened. It was resolved. Part of the resolution might be the lack of an NDA, and Rasool should be able to talk about this …interesting… moment in her brand’s life anyway without worrying that it will torpedo what she and over 30 other designers have worked for long before the public even thought about this album. People need to think about *why* they’re dismissive, rude, and defensive about an issue that Swift’s team acknowledged and fixed, and that *she* acknowledged. Stans are making their faves problematic in this instance and not the other way around.

      • El says:

        But it’s not dismissive. Intentions do matter. Even the laws says so in the most severe of crimes – murder. Even religion says so. I remain mystified by this claim that intentions do not matter.

      • osito says:

        But it didn’t matter to Swift. It didn’t matter to her team. They corrected the mistake and are moving on. It mattered enough to Rasool that she herself said that she didn’t think it was intentional, although the effect was harmful. Why is there a need to defend Swift for doing the right thing? Why is there a need to silence a legitimate complaint — a complaint made all the more legitimate by Taylor Swift and her team? Again, the fans/commenters are doing more than needs to be done, because what needed to be done *has been done*.

    • Sara says:

      Agreed, I think Tay tries to do what is right. I’ve actually started to respect her over the years as she’s grown up. I feel she does the right thing.

  2. TheOtherOne says:

    I am leaning towards defending Taylor and solely blaming her team. Her team dropped the ball and didn’t do their due diligence. I’m glad Taylor is trying to make amends.

    • Kate says:

      completely agree. amazed that with the resources she has at her fingertips – namely her team – that this happened without all the necessary checks. a simple google search would have turned up some considerations on perhaps the wrong name, before dropping the album.

      • TIFFANY says:

        Kate,

        They did their due diligence and did not care. It was another Black person they thought they could either shut up or let Taylor’s fans would attack into submission.

        Taylor’s ‘savvy business woman’ image has been taking a hit the last few years bc of things like this.

        So, she either needs to stop putting her faith in these people to do right by her image, or start firing them.

      • Kitten says:

        Kate,

        TIFFANY is correct in her comments. Furthermore, you can see my own comments later on this page that only serve to support it.

        Taylor’s not a girl anymore. She’s a grown woman. This is her business and her brand. She is responsible for it and for how matters are handled. It’s not being handled right, so stop giving this a pass.

        You want better? It starts with you: Do better, demand better.

    • Betsy says:

      Me too.

      It would be a nice touch if, after paying a settlement that Rasool is comfortable with, that Taylor did an Instagram post for her craziest fans and asked them for once and for all to not send death threats and whatever other horrible stuff they do. And she could do this while wearing clothes bought from Rasool’s website.

      • lucy2 says:

        She really does. I hate that she does, but when nuts are sending death threats on your behalf, for something like this, then yeah, time to speak up.

        I doubt Taylor did anything other than OK the design, it is on her team to do their job, but it’s also her name on the company, so she ultimately bears responsibility too.
        I hope her team covers any costs Amira has incurred dealing with this, and then makes a nice donation to the charity of Amira’s choice as a goodwill gesture.

  3. Lua says:

    Exactly. I’m sure she was presented with the options for her logo and chose or got a final approval, but it’s not like she’s coming up with the designs herself. I didn’t get why they wanted to add the in the first place if it’s not in the album title, but when I saw the merch I realized why they initially wanted to add it, it flows better. Removing it despite sales and cost is a good step in the right direction.

  4. Jay says:

    I’m debating whether, in addition to a financial contribution, Taylor could also wear some designers from this brand? Or might that be taken as trying to co-opt them? I’m genuinely curious what you guys think! I think it would depend on how it’s done.

    Something about “making a financial contribution” doesn’t sit well with me, like this woman’s business is a charity to assuage guilt. On one hand I think “It’s a business, buy something!” but on the other hand I went to school when the spectre of white boys in giant FUBU shirts and bucket hats was a rampant, so…

    • TQ says:

      I love the idea of Taylor taking it a step further and wearing and/or otherwise promoting designers from The Folklore brand.

    • Case says:

      I think it’s fine for Taylor to make a financial contribution to make up for whatever lost business this store owner has endured due to Taylor’s branding. The owner saying changing Taylor’s logo was a good “first step” and she was looking forward to next steps, to me, means money.

      • Jess says:

        I don’t think the “contribution” she mentions is necessarily financial. She could be planning a collaboration, or to wear some of the garments, or whatever.

    • osito says:

      I think a few of the pieces The Folklore has featured might be considered appropriation by through an American lens (I think there are different understandings of appropriation globally and by community, and the American view of it can be a lot harsher than anywhere else…conversation for a different day, though). But most of clothes are just clothes, and if you can afford them, anyone should wear them. Taylor would be boosting those designers, however, and not necessarily the aggregator, unless she herself does a capsule collection or something with them.

      And I agree that the charity feels a little odd here, but I think most charity feels that way. Swift’s generally doing the right thing here. I’m not going to nitpick her.

  5. Kate says:

    If you order merch for Taylor’s album it’s shipping in several weeks because the items need to be made. I think that’s what they mean by merchandise hasn’t been manufactured, there’s a mock up on the website so people can order but they hadn’t started making it to fulfill orders yet.

    • Ellie says:

      Exactly. I ordered a vinyl and it’s going to take 16(!) weeks. Shipping is slow these days, but some of that’s got to be production time. I think it’s possible a small number of the cardigans were made for her celebrity gifts they’ve been posting, but I’m not sure if they have the label or not. The mass production definitely hasn’t happened, or wasn’t done at least.

      • Kate says:

        I just looked and those don’t have the album name on it. Makes sense, not sure celebs necessarily want to be promoting album merch.

        On a side note, The Folklore has great clothing, shoes and jewelry, would recommend checking it out! I really feel for the owner, it sucks to have these situations happen and not know if the other party is going to act fairly, plus the crap from her fans. I’m glad Taylor is doing the right thing with the merchandise change, but I really wish she would tell her fans to stop attacking people on her behalf. She’s not responsible for their actions but I wish she’d at least make them aware that she doesn’t condone or appreciate their behaviour.

    • Shannon says:

      It hasn’t been made yet. She told her record label about her album about 12 hours before the general public.

    • Amy Too says:

      There was an article on here yesterday about Taylor sending The Folklore merch, including a cardigan that said The Folklore Album to a Kobe Bryant’s daughter. There were Twitter pics that included the little girl holding up her cardigan and it said The Folklore Album. So I think some merch was already made, a small sample batch, and she HAS already sent some of it out. I don’t understand the statement her people put out saying none of it had been manufactured or sent out.

      • Kelley says:

        The merch sent to her friends (and Kobe Bryant’s daughter as well as other celebrities) doesn’t have “The Folklore” or “Folklore” on it. On the lower left hand side there is a grey “Taylor Swift” emblem/patch if you will.

      • B says:

        If you zoom in on the picture of Kobe’s daughter holding the cardigan it does not say “The Folklore.” It says “Taylor Swift.”

  6. Laalaa says:

    This is not on Taylor, her team has a job for a reason. It’s not her job, and she has employees for this.
    That said… I mean, folklore is such a generic word, in slavenic languages it is used almost interchangibly with “ethnic” and “etno”. When I google folklor, all I see is my grandma’s generation of the clothes worn in our villages.

    • TheOtherOne says:

      But the Owner of The Folklore registered the trademark. Taylor’s team should have done 1) a Google search and 2) a search in the USPTO directory, which is online and free. I am sure Taylor pays her team, especially the lawyers, a lot of money to be on top of this. They dropped the ball.

      • Laalaa says:

        Oh, yeah, I completly agree! I’m just saying it amazes me that the word could be trademarked in the first place.

      • lucy2 says:

        I don’t think she trademarked the word “folklore” but “The Folklore”, and probably in terms of clothing and merchandise. Kind of like Target – the word itself can be used in various other ways, but you can’t make clothing and slap a label that says “target” on it.

  7. emmy says:

    It’s a clusterf*ck and that’s why I believe Taylor would not have done this on purpose. It’s bad for her brand. On the other hand, she’s the boss and the fish starts smelling from the head. So maybe she needs to hire other people.

  8. Case says:

    I don’t believe the merch is manufactured yet actually. There are pictures on her site that show the wording/design overlaid on a piece of clothing, but the clothes aren’t coming for like two months. The album came together quickly so I’m not shocked the clothes aren’t ready yet.

    I’m glad to see she’s making amends. I expected nothing less. Her team definitely failed her on this one and I don’t believe she would’ve done this on purpose – it’s a bad look PR wise, and that’s why she’s acting so quickly to fix the situation.

  9. Kk2 says:

    It’s an embarrassing screw up for Taylor‘s team. But I think the silver lining is that Ms. Rasool’s company will hopefully get a big publicity boost and some additional business out of this. There are probably millions who’ve heard of her now that had not yesterday. Hope she can capitalize on it.

    • Zengirl says:

      I totally agree. It made me actually go check out the website and the clothing, jewelry is stunning for the most part. Not low priced though, but gorgeous. Many things are sold out (don’t know if this was post or pre this incident). Overall, I think for a initial screw up (they should have checked it out better0, it is actually being handled in a positive way. I think Taylor also has the Lady A thing in mind and wants to prevent anything like that from happening.

  10. Sof says:

    It amazes me how her team thought they could get away with this. Taylor has to make amends for something she had no involment with. However, she should adress her fans about their behaviour.

  11. Veronica S. says:

    It’s the least she can do, especially if it covers the legal fees for the owner. Ultimately, while it is her team that was responsible, she’s the one benefiting mainly from the brand, so the error comes back on her. This case is a little more nuanced than the Lady A situation, but it also reveals how ridiculously easy it is to just handle things in a decent, respectful manner instead of digging in your heels about it.

    • lucy2 says:

      Yes – cover the legal fees and any other costs incurred, apologize, change it, everyone move forward. Which is EXACTLY what Lady Antebellum should have done for Lady A.

  12. Laura says:

    Has Taylor said anything to her fans about their despicable treatment of Rasool?? That absolutely needs to be stopped.

  13. Jelly says:

    Taylor’s fans need to back off. This is clearly a case of logo infringement. It is possible (although unlikely) that the record company have prototypes of the merch prepared for marketing purposes but haven’t got warehouses of product because of the speed of production and rollout of the album. Maybe they got a bit sloppy in haste. What’s important is that Taylor is making it right by the business and they are getting a ton of exposure so there’s that. Let’s try to turn this into a pos cause honestly I would rather reserve my outrage for Epstein and other pressing issues.

    • Jules says:

      Taylor’s fans are currently sending death threats to the Pitchfork writer who gave her album 8/10, they do not know the meaning of “back off.” Taylor hasn’t said anything about their behavior either.

  14. Jelly says:

    Taylor’s fans need to back off. This is clearly a case of logo infringement and Taylor needs to make it right. It is possible (although unlikely) that they have prototypes of the Merch prepared for marketing purposes but haven’t got warehouses of product because of the speed of production and rollout of the album. Maybe they got a bit sloppy in haste. What’s important is that Taylor is making it right by the business and they are getting a ton of exposure so there’s that. Let’s try to turn this into a pos cause honestly I would rather reserve my outrage for Epstein and other pressing issues.

  15. adastraperaspera says:

    Swift needs to fire the person/team who missed the due dilligence on this. As someone said already, all it took was a google search to find Rasool’s company. And the logo on the merchandise looks too similar. This may be a case of lazy, entitled marketing teams dialing it in–thinking they’re big dogs who can steal things if they want. Horrible optics.

  16. Jules says:

    How generous of her to be “happy” to make a contribution to the business owner whose designs she stole! She should be grateful she’s not getting sued. (Of course it was her team and not her personally but she’s the CEO here, it’s her name on everything, she’s the one ultimately accountable for this.)

    • amanda says:

      She didn’t steal “designs”. Same GENERIC name with similar logo placement. Hardly earth-shattering damage and if anything it gave that woman traffic and exposure which leads to potential sales and clients. Furthermore Swift isnt profiting off the similarity – her sales arent dependent on the name and logo. She could have named it anything else with a different logo And her bottomline would be the same.

      People just want to make a bigger deal out of this when it’s already between settled between the parties. Smh

  17. Lisa says:

    Taylor has handled this well.

  18. Kitten says:

    Not her first rodeo, she stinks of white privilege and always has. Stop being apologists and hold her accountable. Do it now or this will get worse and you’ll wish you had.

    • Kitten says:

      Additionally, think before you come at me.

      This is Taylor’s business and her brand, and no matter how it happened, she is ultimately responsible. This is the kind of ‘error’ a simple Google search could have easily prevented, coming from a woman who has gone after others, including young bloggers, for far less.

      This is public at a time when people of colour are literally fighting for every aspect of their lives. Any ‘apologies’ should be full and public, not read like a mention. Any and all ‘reparations’ should be publicly addressed and disclosed. Her rabid fans should be addressed by her.

      This “behind the scenes” innuendo crap doesn’t cut it anymore. Stop giving it a pass.

      • papier mache says:

        because the word ‘the’ was written vertically before the word ‘folklore’. get a grip.

      • Kitten says:

        papier mache says, “because the word ‘the’ was written vertically before the word ‘folklore’. get a grip”

        I began that comment with “Additionally, think before you come at me.” Guess I should have said this instead…

        Swift is infamous for collecting trademarks like a hobby gone mad. She’s also infamous for law suits based on them, and for infringing on the trademarks and rights of others.

        2014 Swift was slapped with trademark infringement lawsuit over Lucky 13 clothing line https://www.inquirer.com/philly/blogs/entertainment/celebrities_gossip/Taylor-Swift-Slapped-With-Trademark-Infringement-Lawsuit-Over-Lucky-13-Clothing-Line.html

        2015 Swift settles ‘Lucky 13′ trademark case with clothing company https://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/nov/10/taylor-swift-settles-lucky-13-case-with-clothing-company

        2015 Taylor went after an Etsy store owner over use of the words “shake it off” https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2015/02/82294/taylor-swift-sues-fan-made-etsy-products

        2017 Taylor went after a small politics/culture blogger for questioning the fact that White Nationalists hold Swift as an icon, but she does not speak on this. She did not however go after this site or sites like Salon, or anyone else who did the same thing. https://www.salon.com/2017/11/07/taylor-swift-popfront/

        2017 SwiftLife app takes on Taylor for trademark infringement https://www.worldipreview.com/news/taylor-swift-sued-over-social-networking-app-16353

        See a pattern yet? Because there’s more. A lot more, and it’s easily revealed in a simple internet search.

        2020 A black-owned business “The Folklore” is trademarked for years but Swift infringes on their legal rights. This “mistake” is supposedly “being worked out” in private — AFTER Swift’s very public launch, The Folklore complained publicly, and the company’s owner has now been harassed and threatened by Swift’s army of rabid fans.

        As Swift has a penchant for trademarking album and song titles so only she can use them (1989, Shake It Off, etc) the simple due diligence required PRIOR to this point would have showed this trademark as being owned by someone else.

        This is not the first time she’s done this, specifically to a clothing brand, and a pattern easily emerges here: It’s almost as if the brands, trademarks and rights only matter to Taylor when they’re HERS — and when they belong to someone else, she strikes first and shakes off the damage later.

        So, that grip you told me to get, it feel grippy enough to you yet? It should, because the pattern is pretty clear: A wealthy high profile white woman is using her affluence and power to effectively steal from other people, while smacking the crap out of anyone who questions her, even in a cultural context.

        I repeat: Not her first rodeo, she stinks of white privilege and always has. Stop being apologists and hold her accountable. Do it now, or this will get worse and you’ll wish you had.

  19. yinyang says:

    Taylor Swift Inc. has the market cornered. Writing songs for rich white girls=big money, probably one of the richest demographics. And she’ll never take a hard stance on anything, she’s a safe good girl, more than the other musicians right now. The album is not the most brilliant folk rock, it has some 80s vibe, some Cigarettes After Sex vibe. after the thrid somg her voice made me dizzy. Her team obviously helps her put the music and tunes together, and they’re pretty genius in the business aspect.

    • M says:

      Ah, are you implying that a woman couldn’t possibly put together her own music without the help of a whole team? Would you make the exact same claim about, say, Sade? Or Beyoncé? Or Mariah Carey? Or do you only feel entitled to because it’s Taylor Swift? Either way, it’s an interesting bit of anti-feminism on your part, considering it’s been extremely well documented that Taylor writes all of her own music and has even co-produced some of it. But by all means, please continue to make asinine assumptions that aren’t rooted in any kind of reality. 🙄

      • Kitten says:

        Ah, are you implying that someone’s opinion isn’t “rooted in reality” over things you personally do not know and have no way of knowing? Or do you only feel entitled to make those assumptions because it’s Taylor Swift? Either way, it’s an interesting bit of hypocrisy on your part but by all means, please continue to make aggressive assumptions that probably aren’t rooted in any kind of reality as you tell other people what to think, and how.

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