So imagine my surprise when I saw NEXT are now selling a breastfeeding cover almost identical to the one I sell, styling their images the same, using a model similar to myself... so similar that I in fact did a double take!
ABOUT OUR CHICAGO LOOP BREASTFEEDING COVER
Our Chicago Loop breastfeeding cover wasn’t ‘the first’ but it was different to anything else on the market; there was nothing that wasn't an apron style, a shawl, a car seat cover, a 5-in-1, a poncho, a huge swathe of fabric or a leopard print.
I would know, I searched and searched for months when I was pregnant with my first baby in 2018 and decided to make exactly what I would use, what I knew would work for modern Mamas who wanted to maintain their own style ‘to help at least one mama on their feeding journey to feel more like you’.
A product I personally trialled with my first baby, getting the width of the fabric just right so it covered but didn't swamp, sourcing something super-soft and crucially in a leopard print.
I appreciate we haven't invented the wheel here and I am aware we sell other products which other brands also make - muslins, baby wraps, nappy pouches etc. But they are designed with our stamp on it; we haven't copied someone’s else's print, we have worked on a length/shape of wrap which we feel works better than others I tried with my first baby, the label/font is inspired off a market in Waco, Texas we went to over 5 years ago and we only stock leopard prints because this is what we wanted to be known for initially.
We have done the work to make Bon + Bear our vision, our take on these products to offer Mamas not only what they will need in the 4th trimester but a reason to buy from us and not a big company (read more about our story here).
WHERE THE CROSSOVER IS
- Product design is the same shape, size and stitch finish. Although this isn't illegal, added with the below it seems suspicious...
- Label placement and style is very similar, with the script writing not present on any other maternity items they stock. Why introduce this new style of font on a product you've never stocked before?
- Photography styling and model is the clincher, if they weren't copying us then why style the model and the shots the EXACT same way, even down to the placement of the babies hand.
- Leopard print, very similar in shape and scale except no black in it. Again, not illegal and I don't own the design rights to 'leopard print' but added to the list it seems interesting to go with this for a new product by chance.
- Undercut my price substantially, which is a kicker and why small businesses always struggle against big corporates who do regularly rip off other designs without a care or thought about getting caught.
WHY THIS IS FRUSTRATING FOR ME AS A MOTHER AND OWNER OF BON + BEAR
The actual image from NEXT is so alike to my image visually and styling-wise, that it looks like it could have come straight off my website. It hurts because the image I have used is in fact one of me breastfeeding my baby at 8 weeks old. Something very personal and what I wanted to portray through our brand; the emotion behind the product created and where it was born out of. So for NEXT to copy exactly this on a photo which has a lot of meaning, it feels belittled and shows how little they cared too - doing no due diligence on what Bon + Bear is all about.
My lovely photographer Stories by Chloe is so talented, a small woman-led business also and she puts so much emotion into the photos to tell a story. You only have to look at her website to see how much she has crafted this for all brands she works with. Which is evident as you will see through all our imagery on the website, so for her too, this is devastating to see her own work copied and no decency to try and do something different.
I am a small business, you will see that from my followers on Instagram & Facebook and also that we have only been around nearly 3 years. I have been growing this business tirelessly alongside my usual day job, raising a less than 1 year old (who is now 3), growing another human who was born last May and all whilst in a pandemic.
ABOUT NEXT’S BREASTFEEDING COVER AND WHY IT IS WRONG
I feel both honoured and disappointed by this blatant copying. Honoured that they have come across my brand and clearly like the styling and our product but disappointed that they haven’t had any originality in the product or photography to just try and pass off as their own originality, or that a small business like mine wouldn’t check or have the means to challenge it.
It is a product NEXT has never sold before, so why not take this as an opportunity to put your designers to use and what you employ them for. Create a new design which isn’t the same material, isn’t the same shape and size, a similar label and font, a similar leopard print, the same art styling and modelling.
I get that this is what big brands do, they comp shop and copy elements of other products from competitors, designers go on 'inspiration' trips and then create collections from trends. But this is what it should be 'inspiration' to then go and do something different with your own stamp on it. Whether that's a unique print, a different fabric, a different shape, different styling, different photography, anything original!
NEXT I assume saw a new category opportunity, a new way to capitalise on new mums (since breastfeeding is one of the biggest growing areas now in clothing/accessories) and they haven’t had a second thought on why a breastfeeding cover is something personal to every mums feeding journey. Something which has the power to help new mums learn to breastfeed with some extra privacy, to boost their own confidence, to give them the support to feed wherever they want.
So when a big brand copies a small business not only for the product, but for the print offering and the brands photography, it really does sting more and typical of large brands to think they can get away with it. When new mothers search for a breastfeeding cover which I have poured my heart into for years off the back of my own challenges breastfeeding - they will now see our products side by side - with NEXT’s being £15 cheaper because they are a huge company who can mass produce and can afford to sell at that price.
WHAT I HAVE TO DO NEXT (pun intended!)
As a small business I have a family to provide for, children in Nursery, no job to fall back on, a mortgage and a business which I want to grow and invest more in.
I can’t afford to sell our products any cheaper because our Chicago Loop breastfeeding cover is made in the UK in small batches (also by another woman-led studio), all fabric is sustainably utilised so there is zero wastage, all packaging is recycled/recyclable and for every order we plant a tree with Ecologi to give back to the planet. The quality of the product is amazing and every single one is individually checked and the reviews speak volumes, so although we may be more pricey there is a reason for it too.
So I have to keep doing what I am doing, working hard every day to keep this business going, keep improving our SEO and Google Ranking, create interesting content on socials to inspire new customers and so much more!
Unfortunately since I haven’t had a response from NEXT after calling them out on this on Instagram (giving them ample time to), I will now have to get in touch with copyright lawyers, look at my options to send a cease and desist and find a way to say loud and clear – THIS IS NOT OK.
It’s a shame, because if NEXT had come to me originally and said "we love your design and what your company stands for, we would love to stock you" I would have jumped at the chance! I actually wholesale to other small mama-led businesses and feel so thankful when I do get contacted for opportunities. I even interned at NEXT in their buying department 10 years ago, I started my buying career in that very company, I have bought endless baby clothes for my kids, maternity items for myself. Yet, here I am feeling deflated and never wanting to buy from them again.
If you’ve got this far, thanks for reading and I hope that you can one day ‘support small’ buying one of our Chicago Loop Breastfeeding Covers or Maine Baby Wrap Sling in leopard print, as every order means the world.
Mama of 2 Bears & Founder of Bon + Bear
Come follow along on Instagram | @bon_and_bear