Every Instagram influencer knows a picture is worth a thousand words. So what does that make two identical pictures worth? A global viral story, by my maths.
That’s just what Rosie Clayton, a former fashion merchandiser for Abercrombie & Fitch and J.Crew, found out the hard way when her former friend and fellow social media mogul, Jenn Lake, accused Clayton of stealing her ideas.
You can see why the Internet feud arose. The women’s pictures are almost identical:
After months and months of the feud growing, Lake, who started the blog Style Charade (a strangely named blog or a clue for Instagram detectives, perhaps) posted a piece titled What to do when you’re being copied on Instagram.
The post accuses an unnamed Instagrammer of ‘systematically copying [Lake’s] channel, captions, location concepts, and personal style’ for more than three years.
Lake has 151,000 followers, while Clayton has 120,000, at time of writing. Many on social media have pointed an accusatory finger at Clayton, because of her diminished popularity – a classic playground tactic, it would seem.
On closer inspection, however, Lake, a senior vice president at public relations firm Zapwater, joined the picture-sharing platform in December 2011, a whole month after Clayton, who calls her Instagram ‘a passion project’.
Further to that, neither fashionista consistently uses one outfit, location or look before the other, with their colourful curated aesthetics interlocking in terms of a posting timeline.
For example, Clayton’s take on these dresses (pictured left), photographed in front of the same wall art, was posted on November 12, weeks before Lake shared her image (pictured right) on November 30.
Likewise, these photographs taken in front of the same wall in Miami tell a different story.
Clayton’s shoot (pictured left) was posted on March 21, 2016 where Lake’s (pictured right) were posted almost a year later on January 9, 2017.
Furthermore, UNILAD have obtained a now-deleted photograph originally posted on June 9 on Lake’s Instagram account, depicting the blogger wearing an identical dress to one which appeared on Clayton’s Instagram on April 15, 2017.
You can see the side-by-sides with Rosie on the left and Jenn’s deleted image on the right below:
Despite there being no definitive answer or proof, some publications have suggested guilt on Clayton’s part, after the local story went viral worldwide, featuring in many women’s magazines from ELLE to The Debrief.
Clayton ‘vehemently denies’ this.
However, speaking out about the ‘daunting’ prospect of these accusations, Rosie Clayton exclusively explained to UNILAD how the timeline discrepancies have led to her being unfairly blamed as part of what could be a publicity stunt.
Speaking out for the first and only time, Rosie told UNILAD:
My social platform is a reflection of my 16-year background in the fashion industry. My images are planned, shopped, and created, on average, 30-120 days in advance in order to tell a cohesive colour story.
If, and only if, there is a new wall that compliments my current colour story, or a time-sensitive brand collaboration, will I include it in my grid at the time. In other words, posted images are rarely taken the same week as when they go live on my channel.
You can see [my feed] has been organised by colour flow; I will not run out to a new wall simply to be the first to post it. Although organising my feed by colour can be a challenge (there are so many wonderful photos I have to wait months to post), it’s also what sets my feed apart and something I’m happy to curate.
Now, you might say this feud is illustrative of the increasingly homogenised fashion and arts industries.
You might simply say there’s no point crying over the plagiarism of a bunch of pixels.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
But for Rosie – and presumably Jenn – this is a matter of principle and reputation, to not quote Taylor Swift.
Rosie, who experiments and strives for ‘dynamic and compelling’ posts, continued:
I want my work to be judged based on merit, authenticity, and creative direction. My original content is what has built my Instagram audience – not sensationalised headlines, leveraged connections, or calculated publicity stunts.
I work hard to curate my content and it has given me an incredible amount of joy and creative fulfillment over the past few years. To have my hard-earned successes and name tarnished by these allegations is childish and petty.
Rosie explained her gratitude to her followers, adding:
They have given me confidence, the ability to express myself, and a platform on which to do so. Instagram has allowed me to collaborate with wonderful brands, work closely with my husband (who is my photographer), travel, and the monetary independence we all aim to achieve.
I have never viewed this platform as a competition with women who love fashion and the arts. My posts are a creative outlet and a way for me to connect with others. I hope to provide a brief escape from headlines, be a creative and trusted resource, and grow and challenge myself while pursuing a field I passionately love.
Rosie tells UNILAD she has been trying to take the ‘high road… and remain silent’ but worries ‘silence can be viewed as an admission of guilt and that certainly is not the case’.
Rosie added she is loath to allow false and malicious accusations to destroy her Instagram platform – ‘a passion project that has become my livelihood’ – which she ‘worked so hard to build’.
UNILAD have contacted Jenn for comment and we are awaiting a response.