Jen Zeano Designs is a beloved queer-Latina owned small business based in South Texas that designed the “Latina Power” tee and centers their products around Latinx empowerment. They recently learned from their customers that discount department store Ross is selling tees with designs closely resembling their “Morena” and “Latina Power” tees. They shared photos of the tees side by side to highlight the similarities explaining they’ve had their designs stolen in the past but this is their first experience with a major department store.
“When we got several messages with both the ‘Morena’ tee and the ‘Latina Power’ tee we were outraged. At that point we knew that Ross had purposely stolen these designs and/or had done absolutely no research about the products that they were bringing in to their stores that are obviously targeted to our Latina community,” Founder and Creative Director Jen Zeano tells HipLatina.
We reached out to Ross and have not received a response at the time this went live. On their website they explain their process of obtaining products: “We’re savvy—our buyers search the globe for the best brands and latest styles. We work directly with manufacturers to negotiate the best deals.“
Their apparel includes name-brand and designer apparel that comes from leftover inventory and the self-proclaimed “largest off-price retail chain” in the nation states on their site they “have a great deal of purchasing power.” Their low prices come at a cost however, according to a Los Angeles Times article that explored the low wages garment workers earned making clothing for stores including Ross. The U.S. Department of Labor investigated 77 Los Angeles garment factories from April through July of 2016 and found that workers made an average of $7 an hour for 10-hour days sewing clothes. A spokesperson for Ross told the LA Times the company “does not control what third-party vendors pay their employees, contractors or subcontractors.”
The alleged knockoff tees are from “Sensational Collection” according to the tag while JZD tees have her brand name directly on the tee. Zeano and her wife, Veronica, design and print all their products at home with the aid of Zeano’s parents and also work with a local Latina to print tees when they need additional help. In an Instagram post, they shared that the brand was born after the 2016 election and that they have always set out to empower BIPOC voices.
“We work so hard on creating pieces for our community and we work endless hours running this business and it’s heartbreaking that this big corporation is mass producing our designs,” she wrote in the Instagram post. The soft pink “Latina Power” tee is currently available on their website for $35 while the “Morena” tee sells for $32. They’ve been asking customers and followers on Instagram to share their story in the hopes that Ross will respond to their claims.
“Big corporations like Ross know how valuable our community is and they are desperately trying to profit off us but they constantly prove that to them profits are more important than people.”