Gavin Rajah, accused for the fourth time of copying designs
READ THE VERY LATEST IN THIS SAGA: US designer dishes the details on her beef with Gavin Rajah
Johannesburg - Award winning fashion designer Gavin Rajah has been accused of plagiarism for the fourth time in as many years.
On Monday, Chelsea Liu told Newsful that Mr. Rajah used her photographs and her clothing designs for a feature article that was published in Harayer Magazine -- a publication based in Qatar.
She said the designer also sent an email entitled "Courtesy Email" to her husband Marc, last week Friday. Ms. Liu, a Chinese model, photographer and designer took to Facebook with screenshots of the email, purportedly from Mr. Rajah, seemingly threatening her into silence.
The email reads: "Hi Marc, I am writing this email only as a courtesy. In fact I write this out of respect for you. Should Chelsea not remove all her malicious posts on Facebook we intend sending an urgent application to the US Citizenship & Immigration Service via the US Consulate by our attorney today in SA illustrating our intent to pursue damages and a charge of cyber bullying. The implications for green card holders and individuals not naturalised in the US are dire, given this behaviour, I am sure you are aware of. She has until 14h00 SA time to remove this. There are other legal methods of recourse and or forms of discussion but as usual Chelsea would prefer her irrational behaviour."
The letter is signed off by Mr. Rajah.
Ms. Liu told Newsful that her history with Mr. Rajah dated back to last year when she connected with him on Facebook over an event he was planning in June 2015. She said the gist of their agreement was that he would market her dresses in South Africa. There was allegedly a structured package deal which included public relations and photoshoots.
The total cost was an estimated R540,000 and Ms. Liu said she paid upfront. She showed Newsful a copy of the invoice.
According to her, the package included the hiring of models, photographers, and even a photoshoot in Paris which was to be conducted by Mr. Rajah.
"In addition, [I paid for] six months of public relations coverage by a renowned marketing company and a full-time assistant," she said.
"We had one month of coverage (the month of July). Then the emails stopped. We found that Gavin stopped paying the PR company. Later, it appears that Gavin hardly paid anyone."
Ms. Liu said she filed a lawsuit against Mr. Rajah last year, but later withdrew because "...Gavin's lawyers kept delaying and we wouldn't get a court date until 2017."
She said Mr. Rajah used her pictures in a feature story about him in an international magazine.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Ms. Liu wrote: "This is really too far!!! South Africa designer Gavin Rajah privately threatened my family by saying his lawyers would try to take away my US green card! So, complaining about Gavin Rajah stealing my designs means I am a cyberbully? This is what Gavin does when you cross him. He tried to break up your family! What exactly will the lawyers say? "Chelsea is bullying Gavin! Cancel her green card and kick her out of the US!!""
The final straw was Mr. Rajah emailing her husband with threats "...that his lawyers would try to take away my green card". Liu and her husband Marc presently live in New York, in the US.
"Nobody cares about the money anymore. But he (Mr. Rajah) is a bully and completely morally corrupt. Worst of all is that many of these models and photographers thought I didn't pay them, which is totally false."
South Africa's widely celebrated designer has been accused of plagiarism at least three times in the past. The lastest accusation came in January 2016 when Morgan Deane wore a dress that she believed was from Mr. Rajah. Women24 reported on the 14th of January that Ms. Deane (who was once married to former Protea's cricket captain Graeme Smith) asked Mr. Rajah to dress her for the L'Ormarins Queen's plate. She thanked Mr. Rajah for the dress in a social media post and then discovered that the dress she used was from Three Floor Fashion and not Mr. Rajah's collection. The company also confirmed that it had no association with Mr. Rajah.
Newsful reached out to Mr. Rajah on his personal cellphone via call and SMS. He did not respond to our request for comment. It's understood that Mr. Rajah is in the US attending a Harvard University event.
Meanwhile, at least three people who responded to Ms. Liu's Facebook post included these comments which were minimally edited for clarification, but not for grammar:
Sim Tshabalala wrote: "Please don't [heed] a word from that email … its his modus operandi and sends such threats etc and bullying tactics etc… i have received such in the past. they hold no water and he has no power to do what he is suggesting etc. he threatens people, as usually designers and creatives are in the main non-confrontational and are timid. and so he strong arms his way out of many sticky similar situations. BE STRONG and stick to your guns as there is NOTHING he can do to you…just trying to bully you."
Mr. Tshabalala was the first to accuse Mr. Rajah of stealing Mr. Murad's design at 2014's Cape Town Fashion Week.
Hans Villiers said: "Chelsea he is one sick human being.... Don't worry about it there are plenty of suppliers out there that he [owes] money to besides stealing designers designs"
Jacobus Johannes Dippenaar wrote: "Yes I follow her. I wished I could have warned her before the collaboration ... If I only [knew]."