- Jesse Kamm; Madewell
- Designer Jesse Kamm says that Madewell is using her
“trademark” to sell wide-leg pants.
- Kamm claims that the brand is not only copying her
“trademark,” but also using her name to market the pants via
search engine optimization (SEO) and “advertsising.”
- People are not buying it.
- The pants likely showed up due to Google algorithms, not a
use of Kamm’s name as a marketing device.
- Kamm has since walked back her claims.
Trends come and go, but in the fashion industry, drama is
Denim aficionados were in the thick of it earlier this week when
Jesse Kamm, a Los Angeles-based designer, accused Madewell of
ripping off her namesake brand’s signature wide-leg pants.
Although wide-leg “sailor pants” have been around for some time,
Kamm has been known for her take on the look since 2005.
In an open-ended Instagram post addressed to Madewell, Kamm
accused the brand of ripping her off – and using her name to
“I am not sure why else you would need to use my name and
my trademark. It feels very inauthentic. Please take my name out
of your ads. I would appreciate it so very much,” Kamm wrote
alongside a screenshot of a Google search for “JESSE KAMM
The search results showed items at Madewell and her own
pants. Based on this, Kamm
claimed that the brand was using her name to market the pants via
“I see that you are using my
name in your advertising. Not only is this weird, but I feel it
is very confusing to the customer,” Kamm wrote. “Friends: I have
never contributed to, nor collaborated on any design with
But that’s not quite the
As many commenters pointed
out, Madewell isn’t using Kamm’s name for advertising, marketing,
SEO, or anything else. The reason similar pants showed up when
Kamm, or any commenters, Googled “Jesse Kamm Pants” is because of
Google shopping ad algorithms. The bar the Kamm had shared a
screenshot of was sponsored shopping ads that retailers have paid
for, as The Cut reported. What you see
in that bar is based on search history, not marketing or SEO.
In the comments section, people
were quick to set the record straight.
“Wait up. You’re getting mad
at Google results?!” one person asked.
“Sweetie, they’re wide-leg, high-rise pants and the Google
results are based on an algorithm. It’s time to grow up and get a
publicist and a PR team OK,” someone else said.
“Just Googled those same search words and Anthro’s wide-leg pants
popped up along with reformation. It seems like everyone is
getting different search results…. I think it’s most likely based
on search history, *not* a SEO tactic,” another person said
“I’m not quite understanding
where Madewell is using your name… Google search is one thing –
and its a wildly cryptic, massive thing. Another brand falsely
advertising or leaching your product is entirely different,”
someone else wrote.
Others wanted to talk about
Kamm’s limited size range and high price point. For reference,
Kamm’s pants retail for $395
and comparable styles at Madewell go for $88 and
$60 at American Eagle. Kamm’s
pants also come in a limited size range: 0-12, and tend to run
small. Madewell, on the other hand, ranges in sizes from 23-37
with petite, regular, and tall inseams.
“What in the mayonnaise is
going on here? Everyone and their mother is making this. The only
difference? Your exclusive sizing and astronomical pricing,” one
“Out here selling $400 pants made famous
by Popeye that only fit an Olive Oil a– okay,” someone else
“Your pants are too tiny and
expensive for most people,” one person succinctly summed it
Kamm has since walked back her comments.
Later on Wednesday, Kamm walked back her initial claims in a
second Instagram post. Along with a picture of a sunset, Kamm
addressed eight points.
In her post, Kamm said she never claimed Madewell was unjustly
using her designs, just her “trademark,” which is her name.
“I do understand that Google allows keywords of any sort,
and I still say boo when it is an individual’s name being used
without express permission, even when it’s behind the scenes in
their marketing strategy,” she wrote.
View this post on Instagram
Holy moly ladies!!! I don’t know about you, but after yesterday, I needed a long walk, some deep breathing, and small glass of vodka! Wow. That was really something. I came for coffee, and you guys stayed for a ten course meal. Incredible. Here is what I came away with. 1. Madewell appears to have changed their ad words campaign, so if you did @madewell, thank you for understanding where I was coming from. 2. I do understand that Google allows keywords of any sort, and I still say boo when it is an individual’s name being used without express permission, even when it’s behind the scenes in their marketing strategy. (This was yesterday’s trademark reference…my name, not the pants) 3. I did not invent the sailor pant, and have never claimed to have done so. 4. Five years ago I did make a pair of sailor pants with a super tailored waist in an amazing fabric which has become a favorite among many women. 5. This accidental miracle was never intended to hurt or exclude anyone. The shape does have a tiny waist, which turns out to be the glory for some (and the great downfall of this style for others… and for this I am sorry). 6. Ladies, I have never suggested that you should not wear a high-waisted, wide-legged trouser from any other brand. You should shop wherever you feel so inclined. My only issue is with corporations using my name to increase their own profits. 7. We are a tiny company, perhaps to your surprise. Our team consists of one husband, one wife (me), and two part-time employees. I have posted an explanation of the limitations of our sizing on my Journal at WWW.JESSEKAMM.WORLD. Sizing has been an ongoing conversation at the studio, and in the last few months we have graded up to a size 14, and will be delivering this size in a few colors in the spring. (This happened before our exciting debate yesterday). 8. Even with that addition to our size run, we will still never be able to meet everyone’s needs in terms of sizing. I will never be able to make everyone happy, but I certainly do not aim to make anyone feel hurt. Sending love. With Sincerity, JK
In her post, she also said that soon the sailor pants will be
available in size 14, a plan that had been in motion for some
time. Although she acknowledged the addition is not a cure-all.
“Even with that addition to our size run, we will still
never be able to meet everyone’s needs in terms of sizing,” she
said. “I will never be able to make everyone happy, but I
certainly do not aim to make anyone feel hurt.”
In a statement to INSIDER, a representative for the brand
said that “JESSE KAMM is not an expert in SEO issues, nor in the
inner workings of Google’s search algorithms.”
Also in the statement, the brand apologized to
” The intention of Jesse’s comment to ‘Please take
my name out of your ads,’ was for Madewell to stop using the
words, JESSE KAMM (our legal trademark), as a keyword in their
online marketing strategy,” the statement said. “This could have
initially been stated more clearly, and for that, we issue an
Although it wasn’t Kamm’s intent to “police the entire
internet,” she felt compelled to speak out because she felt the
trend fit into a larger pattern within the fashion industry, per
“The habit in fast fashion is for these large
companies to watch what is working well for the independent
designers, and then to make a version of that style for their own
collection,” she said. “There is no law against this.”
As Kamm noted, fast fashion retailers are notorious for being accused of
copying little-known designers. In the summer of 2017,
indie designer Hanifa accused ASOS
of copying the design of one of its dresses. Forever 21 was
also accused of ripping off one of Wild Fang’s
Kamm said she and other indie designers are fed up with the
practice. “The problem we, as independent designers, have is when
the large company uses the independent designers’ name as a
keyword to drive customers to view their ‘similar’ product. To
us, this feels unethical.”
Editor’s note: This post has been updated.
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