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Did this designer steal another’s swimsuit line for her Miami Swim Week show? Take a look at the evidence

Side-by-side comparison of the Kenzo suit as it appears on Bfyne's website and a model from Silvia Ulson's Swim Week runway show at Art Hearts Fashion at the Faena Forum on Thursday, July 12, 2018, in Miami Beach.
Side-by-side comparison of the Kenzo suit as it appears on Bfyne's website and a model from Silvia Ulson's Swim Week runway show at Art Hearts Fashion at the Faena Forum on Thursday, July 12, 2018, in Miami Beach.

Oh, this Miami Swim Week scandal is so not cute.

For those not up to snuff on all things fashionable, last Thursday, Brazilian designer Silvia Ulson trotted out models at Art Hearts Fashion at Faena Miami Beach Hotel during Miami Swim Week 2018.

Ulson’s show was on the wild side, with Native American inspiration; the suits featured snazzy prints and some women even wore war bonnets, aka traditional Indian head dresses.

Swim Week 2018 opening event 7/12/2018
Model walks down the runway wearing Silvia Ulson swimwear during the Swim Week opening event, Art Hearts Fashion at the Faena Forum on Thursday, July 12, 2018, in Miami Beach. David Santiago dsantiago@miamiherald.com

But it turns out her runway show not only appropriated the indigenous cultures of the Americas, but it also appropriated another designer’s entire line of swimwear. Several of Ulson’s designs looked exactly like swimwear maker Bfyne’s line from 2017 called the Sahara. Bfyne is a swimwear line that was established in 2014 by Nigerian designer Buki Ade.

John Adele, spokesman for Bfyne.com, told Miami.com: “It comes to us as a surprise as to how another designer is allowed to showcase replicas, and claiming it as her original work,” he said. “It’s shocking.”

Adele went on to explain that the brand is owned by a Nigerian and the Sahara collection was “special.”

We looked at the images side by side and we have to say, they’re dead ringers. Ulson’s show features almost exact replicas of Bfyne’s Ziba, Nyela, Kenzo, Infi and Asari swimsuits.

GALLERY: See all side-by-side comparisons:

Adele explained that Bfyne became aware about Ulson using their 2017 collection via instagram mentions and also past models who were present at the Swim Week show.

So what does Ulson have to say about all this? She released a statement to Fashion Week Online, attempting to clear up the matter.

She said that her annual swimwear presentation was “for fun only… just as a way to bring attention to my other clothing — since I don’t sell swimwear — and Brazilian culture.”

Truth: Her eponymous website does not sell  swimwear, but T-shirts, sweaters and urbanwear for both men and women.

It reads: “Our brand is targeted to women and men who seek exclusivity, sophistication and quality with materials enriched of details such as unique embroidery, paint and Swarovski applications.”

Back to the fashion show in question: Ulson says her inspiration was Native American Brazilian, and that she visited a tribe in her country and spent two days with them.

There are about 240 tribes living in Brazil today,  accounting for about 0.4 percent of the population.

After her return home,  Ulson went on to explain that she “thought it would be interesting to have some bikinis with prints mixing the indigenous paintings that they paint on their body.”

Ulson then said she found a person in Brazil named Fernando (no last name given) who brought her samples that she liked, paid for and produced.

“I never imagined that this would be a copy,” she said, adding that after a Google search she came upon various other similar dashiki styles.

“I paid for the patterns in question,” concludes the statement, “and it was supposed to be a show of cultural pride. Instead I was sold prints that appear everywhere, and it is possible others have been, too.

Bfyne spent two years working on the Sahara collection, says Adele, and takes umbrage with Ulson’s conceit that “because they can be found everywhere so ultimately it belongs to no one.”

Adele says the team at Bfyne has been in touch with their legal advisors.

Take a look at the entire Silvia Ulson collection as shown at Swim Week 2018 in Miami. 

Photos by Daniel Santiago for the Miami Herald

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