Guatemalan-Mexican nail artist Sigourney Nuñez, known as @nailartbysig on Instagram, has become another in a long line of creatives who’ve had their designs, products, or artwork allegedly stolen by SHEIN. Known for their affordable prices and fast shipping, the clothing giant has been criticized for their impact on the environment, contribution to clothing waste, and allegedly stealing concepts from smaller indie designers who might not have the bandwidth or knowledge needed to fight back. Last week, Nuñez found out one of her special Halloween nail design was being sold as a decal on SHEIN’s website without her permission or prior knowledge.
Originally created in October 2019, the design features a clear coat foundation with a white ghost on each nail painted on in an abstract but recognizable fashion with black dots for eyes. Immediately after posting a photo of her “ghostie” nails to her page two years ago, Nuñez went viral for the design reaching 1K likes. Now she’s grown her following to 160k and the design remains on a highlight on her Instagram account.
“I originally executed the look using my non-dominant hand,” Nuñez tells HipLatina. “It led me to think this look could inspire others since it is easy to recreate regardless of their level of expertise.”
But it seems like the nail design might’ve been too easy to recreate. Last week, Nuñez came forward on an IGTV video alleging that her original nail design had been taken and reproduced as $2 stick-ons on SHEIN’s website. She also alleged that they used the photo she’d originally used on her Instagram page, which she only knew about because a follower had DM’ed.
While thankful at first that they had alerted her to the issue, “that feeling was immediately followed by shock and disappointment. I felt pretty vulnerable and wasn’t sure what actionable steps to take next,” Nuñez says.
Nuñez isn’t the first creator this has happened to either. In the comments of her video, followers, many of whom also allege being victims of stolen designs by SHEIN or similar retailers, offered options for pursuing legal action.
Yet copyright law is more complicated than it seems. In the fashion and beauty industries, it only protects unique elements of a design that shows creativity and originality, not the design itself, which means it can actually be legal sometimes to create a knock-off of someone else’s product or idea. And with SHEIN’s size and influence, pursuing legal action isn’t a clear cut or even accessible process.
So while Nuñez won’t be taking SHEIN to court any time soon, she is calling out the company to stop selling her design and perhaps in the future, collaborate with, credit, and compensate artists whose products they want to offer consumers. Outside of that, “My main objective now is to create awareness for their unethical practices,” Nuñez says. “I hope people reconsider supporting SHEIN.”
Nuñez also shared that she found other websites that were also promoting the same product using her image and design.
SHEIN did not respond to our request for comment and at the time of publishing this article the nail art was no longer posted on their site.