When DKNY used several photographs by Brooklyn, New York-based street photographer Brandon Stanton in a display window without permission, Stanton took to social media to get the word out and ask the clothing company to donate to a local YMCA in his community, the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. The multinational clothing company responded by giving the YMCA a $25,000 donation in Stanton’s name.
“I didn’t want to take on a powerful company in any sort of litigation,” Stanton told PDN via email. “I don’t have time for that right now. I also didn’t want to try to personally enrich myself by drawing attention to the matter. So I decided on the YMCA.”
He added, “I’ve seen firsthand how much they help the community.”
DKNY had originally approached Stanton months ago and had offered him $15,000 for use of 300 images for store windows. When Stanton asked for more money, the clothing brand balked, and the deal fell apart, the photographer claims.
Then Stanton discovered his images were being used anyway in a DKNY store in Bangkok. He took to Facebook to share his story and demand that the company make a charitable donation rather than
compensate him. Stanton wrote: “I don’t want any money. But please SHARE this post if you think that DKNY should donate $100,000 on my behalf to the YMCA in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. That donation would sure help a lot of deserving kids go to summer camp. I’ll let you guys know if it happens.” The post spread, earning more that 60,000 Facebook shares and likes, and several thousand comments.
This afternoon DKNY responded with a statement on their social media sites, saying their Bangkok store “inadvertently… used an internal mock up containing some of Mr. Stanton’s images that was intended to merely show the direction of the spring visual program.”
“DKNY has always supported the arts and we deeply regret this mistake,” the statement said. “Accordingly, we are making a charitable donation of $25,000 to the YMCA in Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn in Mr. Stanton’s name.”
After DKNY agreed to make the donation, Stanton published their response on Facebook and thanked everyone who supported him. “$25k will help a lot of kids at the YMCA,” he wrote. “I know a lot of you would like to have seen the full $100k, but we are going to take them at their word that it was a mistake.”
DKNY may have another problem, though. Stanton doesn’t have model releases for his images, he told PDN. “Part of DKNY’s original pitch to me was that I would obtain model releases from 300 of my subjects. Seeing as though no agreement was reached, that was never done.”
Whether that could come back to bit the DKNY and its parent company, LVMH, Inc., remains to be seen.
Amy Wolff contributed reporting to this article.