A NORTH EAST woman threatened with legal action from a major fashion retailer has warned it will “destroy” her firm after it was claimed her brand is “identical” to theirs.
The multi-billion pound fashion giant ZARA has launched legal action against Amber Kotrri and her Darlington-based firm, House of Zana, The Northern Echo can reveal.
The global brand, which has stores right across the UK, is objecting to Mrs Kotrri’s trademark application and the use of the name ‘House of Zana.’
Read more: Why threatening a Darlington firm with legal action might not be a popular decision
It has claimed it is “conceptually identical” to theirs and that the average customer will likely confuse the brand with that of ZARA.
In a letter sent to Mrs Kottri, which has been seen by The Echo, Zara says there is a risk “consumers will misread, mishear, mispronounce and/or otherwise perceive House of Zana as ZARA” and that the brand name “dilutes the distinctiveness and reputation the ZARA brand”.
‘We pose no threat’
Mrs Kottri said: “Our name is very meaningful and personal to us and poses no commercial threat to the multi-billion dollar apparel company ZARA, and their massive market.”
ZARA has since urged Mrs Kotrri to remove all branding and change her business name, but she is determined to fight her corner and maintain her brand, saying it would cause “irreparable damage to our small and loved business.”
Having initially launched her business online in 2018, House of Zana specialises in ethically sourced and sustainable, high-quality clothing.
The success of its concept store in Grange Road, Darlington, has seen it expand into Teesside Airport and reach a global audience online.
The former Art and Design student at Stockton Riverside College plays a pivotal role in the daily operation, from designing clothing to selecting fabrics.
Meanwhile, the word Zana means “fairy” in Albanian – the country where the company was born and has a manufacturing studio.
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Mrs Kotrri added: “We don’t believe anyone has or will confuse House of Zana with ZARA. We’re a small business that specialises in handmade kimonos.
“We have one small concept store in the North East of England and a website to help promote our products), whereas ZARA is a globally renowned fashion brand with over 2,000 retail stores worldwide and a massive collection of products.
“There is no risk of confusing us with ZARA, so why should a corporate giant be allowed to stop a small business from using a name that isn’t at all similar to theirs and would result in the destruction of our brand?
“We know we are not a threat to them, but they could destroy everything we have worked so hard for.”
Mrs Kotrri first received the letter last year, telling her to change the business name, remove all branding and erase her social media accounts within a month.
The complainant was later revealed to be the household fashion retailer ZARA.
“I was really shocked when I found it was them, I couldn’t believe it,” Mrs Kotrri exclusively told The Northern Echo last night.
“I’ve spoken to other small businesses in exactly the same position, and they have sent identical letters. It’s not just clothing it’s anyone with a similar name.”
In 2016, a Barnard Castle business was forced to change its ‘Zara Countrywear’ name after being threatened by the same company.
Over the weekend, Mrs Kottri and her firm has received an outpouring of support from independent businesses right across the North East and Europe.
Meanwhile, she has already confirmed she will be representing herself in court when a hearing is held next month.
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She said: “We have exerted all of our efforts into creating this unique brand, and having just struggled through the pandemic, the last thing we want to do is to be forced to change the brand, remove all labels that are sewn into our stock, change our social media names and shop front.
“This would cause irreparable damage to our small and loved business. We have spent years growing our dream and employing a wonderful team. We have never and still don’t see any similarity in House of Zana’s name or logo, to ZARA’s.
“I have built a full team and a life for myself and they can just take it away from me.
“It’s the name I’ve built up and everyone knows us because of that – how can I just change that?”
A ZARA spokesman said: “We have opposed the ‘House of Zana’ trade mark application at this early stage because of its similarity to Zara’s brand name.
“We wish the business every success and we continue to make efforts to reach the business directly so we can resolve the situation amicably.”
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