US designer might revive case against Gavin Rajah
Johannesburg - Chelsea Liu has hit back hard at South African fashion designer Gavin Rajah after he responded to claims of copyright infringement and alleged breach of contract by Ms. Liu this week.
In a media statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, Ms. Liu and her husband Marc Janke said they would be considering re-filing their charges against Mr. Rajah.
"The original plan (between Ms. Liu and Mr. Rajah) was to market two brands in South Africa. One was Chelsea Liu, a brand that has existed... prior to 2013, which was entirely designed by Chelsea Liu. The other was Ready to Wed, in which Gavin and Chelsea would collaborate in the future. The June 25, 2015 show was for Chelsea Liu. Ready to Wed was planned to launch later," the statement read.
Mr. Janke said after he and Ms. Liu left Cape Town, they saw some coverage of the show but the coverage spoke incorrectly about Ready to Wed's bridal collection and not the Chelsea Liu collection they expected to see. "...we kept silent because we still thought Gavin was trying to help us," Mr. Janke said. (article continues below)
He said all the dresses in the fashion show, and four dresses that were delayed in Paris from where they were shipped, were exclusively designed by Chelsea Liu and existed under her label. "There are no dresses for Ready to Wed. None of the dresses were made by Gavin Rajah or belong to him, and he has no right to use the images without Chelsea Liu’s name."
Mr. Janke said: "Chelsea Liu is an independent brand that was founded long before Chelsea and Gavin ever knew each other."
The pair questioned how Mr. Rajah could make claim to any of the garments, considering that they could prove that the dresses were originally sent from Chelsea’s assistant in a shipment to Paris. "This is an earlier date than anything Gavin can show, proving that they are our dresses," read their statement.
Public reaction to the news
News of the battle between Ms. Liu and Mr. Rajah hit the social networks in full force on Monday, when Ms. Liu posted an email from Mr. Rajah sent to her husband which she claimed threatened them with attention from the US Immigration services (click here to read the email) if she did not remove her posts from Facebook. She included images from a feature article on Mr. Rajah from Harayer Magazine -- a publication based in Qatar -- and claimed the images used in the article were actually hers and depicted her designs.
Mr. Rajah responded on Tuesday evening -- through his lawyer -- admitting to sending the email to Mr. Janke and that his only intention was to alert him to the fact that Ms. Liu's comments were defamatory and that if she did not retract them, he would begin legal proceedings which might affect her application for citizenship in America. Mr. Rajah denied that his email was an attempt to intimidate Ms. Liu or her family in order to silence them. Ms. Liu and Mr. Janke live in New York, in the US and are expecting a baby in under three months.
Meanwhile several media personalities and members of the public took to social media to weigh in on the matter. In 2014, Mr. Rajah told eNCA that he did not copy Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad's design (seen below, 2nd image).
Payment to models and photographers
Mr. Janke and Ms. Liu also reiterated that they paid Mr. Rajah in full -- a sum of over R540,000 -- which they claim he failed to use to pay service providers around their project.
The pair claim Mr. Rajah was paid in three installments which included a wire transfer of $24,120 on May 22, 2015 and two credit card payments of $14,325 and $6,475 respectively on June 24, 2015. Converted to the rand exchange at the time, the figures equal the local amount of approximately R545,000.
The pair also accused Mr. Rajah of inflating the prices in his invoice, which they supplied with the media statement sent today. In one instance, a charge for R40,000 can be seen under an item labeled "venue". Mr. Janke said he called the venue and discovered that it was free of charge if a room was booked with the establishment.
"We have evidence that models and photographers were paid far less [than] what is on the invoice," said Mr. Janke. He added: "We paid Gavin, not the other way around, so it's hard to imagine what Gavin claims we owe him."
Mr. Rajah's statement on Tuesday read: '"Gavin Rajah Atelier CC concluded a business agreement with Ms Chelsea Liu during 2015 in which certain monies were paid by her for services rendered by the corporation. As the representative of the corporation, I confirm that we complied fully with our obligations which included using images from both ranges to secure international exposure. The business relationship was unsuccessful and to date Ms Liu is still indebted to the corporation. Ms Liu instituted legal action but withdrew it last week. Had she had any basis or prospect of success she would have pursued it. She however has chosen to withdraw the legal proceedings, which the corporation defended, and rather utilise social media to defame and damage my good name and reputation. I outright deny the unfounded allegations. If Ms Liu believed she had a valid claim she would have pursued it through her legal representatives in South Africa, which she has not done. It is correct that I addressed an e-mail to her husband, which I did only pursuant to her malicious posts on Facebook, to inform him, as a courtesy, that should these defamatory comments not be withdrawn I would institute proceedings to protect my reputation which may affect her application for citizenship in the USA. I did not attempt to intimidate her or her family and her public comments in this regard are defamatory, unfounded and untrue."
Newsful contacted Mr. Rajah for his response to today's article, but he did not provide comment by the time of publication. We reached out to him more than two hours before publishing, through several mediums and we stipulated our deadline.