As some of you may of seen this week, we came under fire from another jewellery brand who accused us of stealing and replicating their designs; now whilst this kind of thing happens all the time to brands - especially in this Instagram age and the screen shot happy Buyers at the big fast fashion corporations - on this occasion they got it very wrong.
The particular designs in question were from our Rings collection, specifically our ‘nameplate’ style rings; including the Babygirl ring and our upcoming Zodiac ring range. The brand in question proceeded to post a series of stories, tagging Image Gang and accusing us of buying their jewellery to copy for ourselves. They also referred to our styles as ‘trash’, with one of their supporters even saying she would ‘titanic’ any Image Gang jewellery if she was ever gifted it (I presume she means throw into the ocean like the old lady in the film?!).
Anyway, now whilst there are certainly similarities between our designs, mainly the fact that they are both rings and both gold, they both also borrow from a style of jewellery that is deeply rooted in black culture. So, the fact that a white owned brand was coming for a black owned brand, quickly turned the issue into an online discussion of race and culture and the ongoing appropriation of the black community by mainstream) fashion.
The truth is, it would be impossible to steal styles from this brand, because its’ entire product offering is based on a style that was never theirs in the first place; however, their lack of recognition for its’ origins would have you believe otherwise.
Nameplate jewellery has been around since the early 80’s, when the ghetto superstars of inner-city America would adorn themselves with initial pinky rings, which would then go onto to influence the fashion choices of OG rappers like Slick Rick and Big Daddy Kane. Young girls would be gifted necklaces with their often unique names, as a right of passage growing up; Collier Mayerson in her 2016 article states ‘Nameplates have always leapt off the chests and fingers of black and brown girls who wear them; they’re an unequivocal and proud proclamation of our individuality, as well as a salute to those who gave us our names’.
The guardian provides a brief history on the cultural origins of nameplates and the significance to the black and Latinx communities for which they were, and still are so popular.
In recent years, ‘Ghetto Gold’ has certainly seen its’ way into the mainstream, with Carrie Bradshaw famously coining the phrase in an episode of Sex and The City and her infamous nameplate exposing the style to millions. The fact that a fashion style that was once considered tacky, ghetto and garish is now decorating fashion runway models and your favourite tummy-tea influencers, with no reference or homage to its’ cultural origins, is certainly problematic. Especially when you take into consideration the amount these brands are profiting from a style that has been vultured from another culture.
Take Moschino for example; they currently have a pair of nameplate bamboo earrings, basically identical to the ones I wore as teenager, that I would get for £1 from Brixton market, retailing for an eyewatering £549, and although I’m sure, (I hope) that they won’t turn your ear lobes green in matter of minutes, I can’t lie, it feels like a bit of a ‘fuck you’ that Jeremy Scott, as a white man, can get away with charging these prices whilst essentially selling us back our own shit.
With all this being said, I am proud that I have been able to create a brand that makes this style of jewellery accessible to others and will always celebrate the cultural sharing when done correctly and respectfully. However, It is also our responsibility to make people aware of its’ black history, and to give credit accordingly, so shout out: Salt N Peppa, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte and all the other bad bitches that came before us in their ‘Ghetto Gold’.