I was in the Financial District on Friday for an appointment when I saw a familiar face in the renderings for the new lobby of 90 John Street. There, plastered to the makeshift walls of the mid-renovation hallway was none other than Giovanna Engelbert (née Battaglia) scrolling away on her phone in a pair of high-rise pants, a turtleneck, and round-toe pumps.
The renderings were not exactly high-res, but the images of the woman in them was still very recognizably Giovanna.
As I snapped a few quick pics on my phone (something the doormen were not happy about but did not explicitly tell me not to do), I couldn’t help but wonder if Giovanna had given permission to Colliers International, which owns the building, to use her image in this way. Probably not. I mean, why would she? Unless they paid her a ton of money, of course. And if they were paying her, you would expect them to choose a better photo or even shoot some photos themselves, right?
I reached out to Colliers and Giovanna directly to find out what the deal was, but I haven’t heard back from either of them. I know that Giovanna saw my DMs (thanks, Instagram!), but she hasn’t written back yet. I like to think that she is on the phone with her lawyers and will get back to me once she knows where she stands legally.
I would also love to know what her legal rights are in this situation. Giovanna is well known within the fashion industry, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if whoever created these renderings didn’t know her from any other woman in a street style Google search. Even so, is she entitled to some sort of financial restitution by Colliers International if, indeed, they did use her image without her permission?
I reached out to Julie Zerbo of The Fashion Law to get her take on the situation, but I haven’t heard back from her either. And none of my lawyer friends are texting me back, so I’m pretty light on hard facts at the moment, but I will be sure to update this story as more information becomes available.
UPDATE: Turns out the photo of Giovanna was taken by Scott Schuman for his website The Sartorialist. The Daily reached out to Schuman for a statement and will update this story again if and when we hear back from him. Maybe he sold the rights to the image to Colliers International. Maybe not. We found the image by Googling “Giovanna Battaglia looks at phone” (click here to see it for yourself), but it was pretty low down in the image search results.
UPDATE: Giovanna told us over DM on Instagram that she did not authorize use of her image by Collier International. She also said this is not the first time they have used her image in renderings without her permission.