After much contemplation I've decided to write this, mainly working out, that I'm one of the victims who has not much to loose, and also considering that; I don't hesitate being vocal about uncovering the truth. Here goes:
In 2007 a couple of months before launch of M.I.A's 2nd album, her brother Sugu contacted me via myspace to work on, design samples for M.I.A's KALA album merchandise t shirts. I emailed a few samples of my work to Sugu and he liked them, from there I had a meeting with M.I.A. Before meeting started; Sugu asked me to pretend we were mates, as in we hang out together, this was not true at all, because, as I said we met on myspace, only to discuss M.I.A's merchandise t shirts and there was no friendship beyond that. This was the first indication that things were slightly dodgy. First meeting with M.I.A; she gave me her art work, looked at samples of my design work, explained what she likes and didn't like. This gave me a good indication of how to work on: design layout and what materials would be best to use for type of design she wanted to achieve.
Within a week or two I had all key merchandise samples ready. This all required a good 5 days work week, involving: leg work, buying/ choosing materials, having meetings with printers explaining how the art has to be designed on t shirt, and matching different material with different colour t shirts. On top of this, there was more bits of work, they wanted me to do such as: designing a collection and a few other t shirt prints. After all this was completed, all key samples were sent to M.I.A; she liked the samples.
Next meeting was arranged; by this meeting I had to be straightforward about my freelance rates, as there was no discussion of this at the start. 2nd meeting involved talks about: quote, quantities, t shirt colours, logistics, further design ideas, and also this meeting took over 3 hours. The meeting before this, I was waiting for a good 2 hours and M.I.A didn't even show up. For me this is serious valuable time, that I can invest in my own work. In 2007 I was working on developing my label, I was not looking to do any work experience, I've had my fair share of useful work experience in my late teens and early twenties. In first meeting with M.I.A, I had no idea of exactly what I was expected to do, therefore I had I no time to think about freelance rates, and contracts before hand. By the last meeting I knew; there was no way I could do all this running for scraps, I had bills to pay. I went away put together quotes for; dealing with manufacturing 5000 t shirts. Without any exaggeration, my quotes and freelance rates were fair and realistic. But if M.I.A agreed with my quotes then she would have to sell t shirts on her webstore for an extra £10/£15.
About a month went by; after emailing these quotes, and there was no reply from M.I.A's team, I thought they didn't like the samples, and weren't going to use them. M.I.A launched her webstore in early August 2007, and she was selling t shirts I sampled, technically I had had 50% design rights over those t shirts. I spoke to one of my long term business advisors, who has worked in the fashion industry for atleast 30 years. He was adamant that I take further action; he heard, a very similar story from another designer about MIA.
This was not a simple copy right issue, it was a technical copy right issue, only specialist design lawyers are skilled enough to work on these issues. They understood my case, and agreed that I had rights over each one of those 5000 t shirts. These lawyers cost £400 an hour, there was no way I could afford to hire these lawyers, so I had to put the case on hold.
In the past couples of years I've come across similar stories about M.I.A. What triggered me to write this today: recently I found out MIA president T shirts (t shirts I sampled), were her best selling merchandise t shirts. When I first heard this, I laughed it off, but it kept on knocking on my head in past couples of days. Fact there's no mention ever by MIA that I even worked on designing those t shirts, she could have even given me that much credit. I have tried to discuss above issue with MIA and her team, but there is NEVER no response. A fews months after all this happened in 2007, I received a message on myspace from Afrikan Boy, who said maya and sugu, recommended he contact me for t shirt designs. And no, there was no work with Afrikan Boy; I laid out costs and contracts from the first second and he never replied. THE SHAME!
From all this I learnt it was absolutely vital to layout contracts before any discussion of design work proceeds. Another reason I decided to write this because as humans, we are all responsible for each other; if anyone reads this and passes the word, it might save someone else being used abused victim of MIA and her team.