The Australian business owner is heartbroken over Shein's swimwear collection, which looks identical to hers

The Australian business owner is heartbroken over Shein’s swimwear collection, which looks identical to hers

Emily Gradon started her business from her humble kitchen.

While juggling two toddlers and a third pregnancy, the Australian mom put her heart and soul into building every element of her beachwear label Tribe Tropical after spending $120 on her website and logo.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Heartbroken mum over Shein’s swimwear range.

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Four years later, she has now garnered a loyal following of more than 30,000 Instagram followers for her award-winning sunproof swimsuits – featuring unique designs hand-drawn by commissioned artists.

But after spending so long bringing her creations to life, she was devastated to discover China’s fashion giant Shein was selling four swimsuits for $11.95 each, almost identical to her kids’ collection for $64.95 $ look.

“I was so upset – frankly, absolutely disappointed,” Emily tells 7Life in an exclusive interview.

The Tribe Tropical founder is heartbroken after discovering Shein’s swimwear collection, which looks almost identical to her designs. Recognition: Tropical tribe
Mom-of-three Emily Gradon started her business in her kitchen with a $100 website and $20 logo. Recognition: Emily Gradon

“I was really sad to come across what appeared to be four of my original designs…the suits were selling for less than I can buy for myself, which was hurtful.

“Seeing that was very heartbreaking … It felt like a real kick in the teeth.”

The mother-of-three says she made the startling discovery after doing a “random image search” via Google.

“I came across copycat designs that were being sold at other retailers a while ago, so I keep an eye out for those things,” explains Emily.

“Luckily in this case they removed the designs and the seller.

“But then I came across what looked like styles and patterns inspired by my own designs on the Shein website.

“Don’t have the same power”

“They’re a multinational fast fashion company that buys in bulk, so they have that purchasing power. t have the same purchasing power.

“My initial cost is so much higher, not to mention the cost of ownership.”

After spending four years bringing her creations to life, she discovered Shein was selling similar swimsuits for $11.95. Recognition: Emily Gradon

As for quality, Emily says she can attest to the differences between Shein’s products and her own.

“However, I was relieved to see that the difference in quality was obvious,” she says.

“Mine is superior to them, as is my finishing touch, from the piping details to the double lining to the cut of my suits.”

“It is important to note that the prints used were not full copies made by me from leaked files, but certainly appear to be inspired by mine.”

‘Lack of Respect’

Upon closer inspection, she noticed “slight color differences” and slightly different designs.

“Instead of beautiful hand-drawn Australian birds, they included other birds that don’t exist in Australia,” she says.

“My brand is inspired by tropical Australia, which makes my patterns unique.

“But it just upset me to see my ideas being used by another company that is so much bigger than mine.

“The utter disregard and disrespect really hurt.”

As for quality, Emily says she can attest to the differences between Shein’s products and her own. Recognition: Emily Gradon

Emily says she “creates all concepts from scratch” before collaborating with various local artists and designers to develop them.

“It can take many months to develop the patterns,” she says.

“With my label, people don’t just buy a product, they buy the hours of time and care that go into the development of everything we release.

“My standards are so high, I will not put my name on anything I am not happy with.

“That’s what makes small businesses different too – we really care about everything we do, there’s nothing ‘quick’ about what we produce.”

tears of frustration

Emily was pregnant with her third child when she launched her small boutique brand at home in December 2018 while juggling her two daughters.

“After struggling to find attractive, quality, sun-protective swimwear for my daughters, I decided to create my own and Tribe Tropical was born,” she says.

“I hardly knew what it meant to start and run a business.

“I started the brand from my kitchen bench with a $100 website, a $20 logo, two patterns for little girls, and did whatever I could while my kids slept while doing business travel on the side .

“I worked countless hours, cried many tears of frustration and wanted to quit many times.

“But my passion for what I was building kept me going.

“I’ve boottrapped the brand and grown it from just two patterns for little girls to a dozen exclusive and unique patterns in styles for babies, kids, teens, women and men.”

A fair-skinned redhead, Emily says she was inspired to start her label after growing up in tropical Cairns, when “sunproof swimwear didn’t exist”.

Their swimwear designs feature long sleeves with full coverage of the back, chest and arms and are double layered with UPF50+ protection from harmful UV rays.

“I’ve also looked at forms of skin cancer for the past 20 years, so I know the importance of sun protection,” she says.

Their swimwear features long sleeves with full back, chest and arm coverage and is double layered with UPF50+ protection. Recognition: Emily Gradon

When she consulted a defamation attorney, she was advised that the legal team could send Shein a cease and desist letter notifying them of possible copyright infringement on their designs.

However, Emily says she “fears that this alone will not prevent this from happening again.”

“I just released two new sewing patterns and would be really heartbroken if I found a similar version of them on a site like Shein,” she says.

“I don’t know what it takes for multinationals like this to stop doing these things to small brands – I know I’m not the first to see this happen and I know I won’t be the last, unfortunately.”

She adds, “I believe consumers have a right to know what’s happening behind the scenes of the products they invest their hard-earned money in.”

Shin answers

In a statement to 7Life, a Shein spokesperson said, “Shein takes all claims of infringement seriously.

“It is not our intention to infringe on anyone’s valid intellectual property and it is not our business model to do so.

“Shein suppliers must comply with company policies and certify that their products do not infringe the intellectual property of others.

“We continue to invest in and improve our product evaluation process.”

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Khloe Kardashian shares an untagged image of an Australian product

Khloe Kardashian shares an untagged image of an Australian product

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