Nirvana’s estate is suing Marc Jacobs for a squiggly smile-face t-shirt included in the label’s “Grunge Redux” collection, a reproduction of a grunge-inspired line he first showed as a Perry Ellis designer in 1992. The news was broken by TMZ.
In addition to reproduced versions of the original runway items, the Marc Jacobs collection added in a t-shirt with a smile face over which is the word “heaven” On the back, the t-shirt reads “redux, grunge collection, 1993/2018, Marc Jacobs.” The smile face is now available at retail as either a crewneck sweatshirt or t-shirt.
The smile face is said to have been hand-drawn by Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain, who used the drawing on a flier advertising a Nevermind album release party held on September 13, 1991. It’s been theorized the smile was inspired by the famed Seattle and San Francisco-based Lusty Lady, which featured a similar face on its marquee.
Later, the same smile face was used on a t-shirt that read: “flower sniffin, kitty pettin, baby kissin, corporate rock, whores.”
The complaint was filed in a California court on Friday (December 28, 2018) by Nirvana, LLC, an entity owned by Nirvana band members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, as well as Cobain Estate, which is owned by Courtney Love, who was married to Cobain at the time of his death in 1994.
While Jacobs’ smile face makes use of an “M” and a “J” rather than an “X” for the smile face’s eyes, the rest of the design down to the wavy smile and shape of the circle is a virtual copy of the original. Also, the font and the set up of the copy on the back of the t-shirt mimics that of Nirvana’s original “flower sniffin” t-shirt.
Nirvana has had a copyright on the smile face among other items and has licensed use of them to other entities, though according to the suit, Marc Jacobs didn’t seek permission.
While the original Marc Jacobs collection was inspired by the Seattle-based grunge-punk scene, punks at the time either couldn’t care less or weren’t impressed, a reality Jacobs discovered when he sent pieces of the collection to Cobain and Love. In a 2010 interview with WWD, Love explained, “Marc sent me and Kurt his Perry Ellis grunge collection. Do you know what we did with it? We burned it. We were punkers, we didn’t like that kind of thing.”