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Klog Chat: What are Your Thoughts on Western Brands “Adopting” K-beauty?

Is it OK that Western brands copy Korean beauty? Welcome to Klog Chat, a series where we ask you to tell us how you do skin care and beauty: Here we’re wondering: What do you think when American and Western brands copy Korean beauty concepts and ideas in their products? Let us know.

Before we get down in the comments section, we want to bring up what prompted us to ask you all this question this week. One of our all-time favorite and super talented Korean nail artists, Park Eun Kyung, AKA Nail Unistella, found herself in a truly unfortunate situation this week with the massive American nail company Sally Hansen.
Here’s the shortened version of the story: Park is the creator of all those Korean nail art trends you’ve become obsessed with. We’re talking about glass nails, tattoo nails, and wire nails (among so many other trendy designs). According to a Racked report, Sally Hansen caught wind of how popular she is and approached her in 2016 for a collaboration of sorts. Park responded back to the company’s email saying she wanted to discuss the idea more and received word from Sally Hansen that they would get back to her.
Well, they never did. Instead they ghosted her and just now launched a collection of “K-Design” nail stickers that look pretty similar to Park’s designs. Park decided to reach out to Sally Hansen herself and ask them about the designs. According to Park, this was the company’s response: “The designs we launched as part of this collection are not your designs. As I’m sure you are aware, basic shapes such as hearts, lips and wavy lines, or patterns resembling broken glass, are not ownable.”
Park then posted a pretty passionate statement on Instagram expressing her disappointment over Sally Hansen’s designs. “What I do have is my integrity as an artist and the knowledge that I am the originator of these designs,” writes Park. “You’ve broken my heart but you will not break my spirit.”
❌?To you, those ‘basic’ wire hearts & lips, and shattered glass patterns were no big deal. Those designs to me are part of my life’s work – 18 years of living and breathing nail art. The dismissive words you’ve said to me about the designs I’ve created were careless, which saddens me because you have worked with and employ a number of nail artists – you know firsthand how much goes into the creative process. You approached me last year to propose a collaboration, which was incredibly exciting as I thought this could perhaps be the beginning of a true partnership . Instead, decisions were simply made without my involvement. I found out after the fact that #glassnail and #wirenail designs were being sold without my knowledge . I’m a nail artist based in Korea and I’m not familiar with US law. I know that design is difficult to trademark. What I do have is my integrity as an artist and the knowledge that I am the originator of these designs. You’ve broken my heart but you will not break my spirit. ————————————— 그들이 저에게 보낸 답은. “이건 네 디자인 아니고, 인스타그램에 몇천 개의 해시태그가 있는데 … 그 태그로 젤 처음 올라온 건 2013년도야.. 우리는 k 뷰티 트렌드를 반영했고 유리조각 와이어 하트 다이아몬드 같은 디자인은 누구의 고유 디자인이 될 수 없어’ . 저는 한국 사람이라서 미국 법도 모르고요. 네일 분야라 그렇게 디자인을 보호받기도 힘듭니다. 하지만 지금까지 저랑 콜라보 한 브랜드는 잘 아실 겁니다 제가 늘 말했던 게 큰 브랜드에서 큰업체에서 부터 디자인 지켜달라고 부탁했습니다. 내가 한 것이 아니라, 유명하고 안 유명하고 가 중요한 게 아니라, 누군가가 특별하게 디자인으로 제품을 만들꺼면 그냥 쓰지 말고 꼭 디자이너와 협의하고 만들었으면 좋겠다고 했습니다. 네일은 아직 작은 디자인 분야입니다. 적어도 법적으로 존중받지 못해도 윤리적으로 존중해줘야 한다고 생각합니다. 그들이 저에게 “이건 니께 아니야“라고 하는 건 정말 비겁하다고 생각하고 화나네요. 저는 네일을 진짜 좋아하고 사랑합니다. 이런 일이 생겨도 오늘도 내일도 또 하겠죠. 그렇게 쉽고 누구나 다 하는 디자인이었으면, 내가 하기 전 왜 안 했나 묻고 싶네요. 사이트에서는 왜 그렇게 뉴 아이템이 찾기조차 힘든지 물어보고 싶습니다. 새벽에 올린 스토리에 많은 분들이 메시지와 피드를 보내주셨고 응원해 주시고 긴 글 읽어주셔서 감사합니다. ?? link in profile??
A post shared by Park Eunkyung (@nail_unistella) on
While this story has many nuances, it can’t help but remind us of the fact that lots of American and Western companies are launching products directly “inspired” by K-beauty. Products that immediately come to mind are Benefit’s two-toned lipsticks that seem like a direct copy of Laniege’s popular lipsticks and Lancome launching cushion compacts. We see it happening with a lot of Korean mask innovations, as well. Also, many of the Western brands that create Korean beauty-inspired products sell them at a higher price point than Korean products.
This is a very complicated topic with the possibility of both acceptable and unacceptable instances.

So…what do you think when Western brands copy K-beauty? Do you love having so many options? Or…if you want to comment on the whole Nail Unistella and Sally Hansen situation, we’d love to read your thoughts on that too! Spill in the comments below!

Main image credit: @nail_unistella

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