Why is FILA plagiarizing Cabana de Tombolo shirts?
Imitation is perhaps the sincerest form of flattery, but sometimes it’s just super lazy.
Fila, the historic Italian fashion brand that has been owned by South Korean parent company Fila Korea for 15 years, is an expert in reinvention. The company was founded in 1911; throughout its existence, it sold underwear to adventurers in the Italian Alps, made beloved low-top sneakers and outfitted tennis stars. These days, Fila seems determined to become a vehicle for colorful and timeless Gen Z fashion. The company sponsors the world’s biggest pop group, BTS, and has made inroads on TikTok.
But during this mission, Fila may have sacrificed some creative integrity. One of the brand’s most recent drops is a somewhat absurd rip-off of a collection from a much younger (and much less powerful) brand: Tombolo, which we profiled last summer. Tombolo offers “escapewear” – its founders describe the style as “idle clothing for quiet getaways…emotionally nostalgic yet entirely new clothing”. Here’s what we wrote after taking the brand’s calling card, the Cabana shirt, for a spin last summer:
“He channels Hemingway’s mooring Pillar in Havana, or the aperitifs of Amalfi in Talented Mr. Ripley. The cut is more boxy, nostalgic and serious in a way that is decidedly different from the mainstream “escape wear” offered by Mr. Thomas Bahama. Yet with names like “Vongole! “, “Rocket Lobster” and “Flamingo Tartare”, Tombolo is an obvious bed companion for daytime aperitifs, rooftops and weekends. »
We are fans, of course. But it also looks like Fila’s design team copied and pasted Tombolo’s exact fit, material, and vibe when conceptualizing their all-new ‘Cabana Collection’. (Yeah, even the name is exactly the same.) For a refresher on Tombolo’s iconic shirts, see here. For an overview of the latest from Fila, watch here. It’s pretty simple to the naked eye, but in case you’re having trouble putting it together, look at the half zip, multi-colored cuffed sleeves, pockets with whimsical summer images sticking out of them, the terry cloth.
In the product description, Fila wrote, “A luxury terrycloth polo shirt for men and women. Or anyone else who likes to look good and feel good. Iconic Everywhere. #FILAstyle. Avoiding the first two head-scratching sentences of this copy to address this hashtag, it’s clearly not #FILAstyle. It’s #Tombolostyle…with a $40 discount.
Like most multinationals (Fila has 11 offices), the company has figured out how to make a good thing cheaper. While Tombolo makes its shirts with 100% organic cotton, Fila uses an 84% cotton, 16% polyester blend. It’s the look for less, but judging by a quick perusal of the offerings, it’s just not as fun.
Tombolo puts pasta, tequila and lobster on his shirts. One of his best features a shark about to eat two seals. It’s called “Ménage-à-Gnaw”. It’s a very specific brand, very ridiculous. Why dump his vibe for a half-baked Palm Springs collection? Fila is allowed to do whatever it wants — fashion trends exist firmly in the public domain — but it’s a resort wear war that probably shouldn’t have happened.
There’s not much Tombolo can (or should) do except continue to produce the best version of an idea that was theirs to begin with. Fortunately, their followers seem to have caught on to the new counterfeits early on – a spokesperson for Tombolo said that “a group of customers contacted [the company’s founders] about that.”
If one thing is certain, terry cloth is very fashionable this summer. Tombolo and fake Tombolo aren’t the only brands turning beach towels into pool party shirts. look at AEO, Adam Mar and Todd Snyder for terry tops that offer a change of pace from the usual polo shirts that appear this time of year. That being said, most options from these brands are more understated and won’t match the energy of Tombolo’s wackiest creations.
In the long run, supporting Tombolo is a win-win. They only have a few employees and 81,000 Instagram followers (compared to nearly 1,500 employees and over two million followers for Fila), so give the little guy a chance in this beach theme, You’ve got mail smack down. Better than supporting any kind of weird plagiarism negligence going on here. Plus, you’re sure to get a day of compliments in a Tombolo shirt. I wore mine last weekend for this exact purpose.
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