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Uniqlo’s Pokémon T-shirt Contest Winners Announced Then Disqualified

This is why you always read the fine print.

By 3 min read

Two t-shirt design finalists in Uniqlo’s UT Grand Prix 2019 have had their designs removed from the competition for not abiding by the contest rules.

“Grand Prize: Not Applicable”?

The theme for the contest was Pokémon, and 18,000 t-shirt designs were submitted from all over the world. On May 20, they announced the top 24 designs to be printed as part of Uniqlo’s UT collection and sold at Uniqlo stores worldwide. These t-shirt designs were hand-picked by a panel of bigwigs at The Pokémon Company, Game Freak Inc., and Uniqlo.

The top three designs were set to receive cash prizes from $1,000 to $10,000, and the top design was also going to be featured in the upcoming Pokémon Sword & Shield games.

This number one slot was awarded to Chinese designer Li Wen Pei for his design called “Ocean King,” featuring three Magikarp Pokémon under their final evolved form, Gyarados.

What “Ocean King” would have looked like in-game.

However, Uniqlo suddenly pulled the design and issued a notice on the UT contest website on May 22, saying:

“UNIQLO, the Japanese global apparel retailer, today announces that it has disqualified the Grand Prize winner and another finalist in its Pokémon-themed UT GRAND PRIX 2019 design contest after learning that the designs in question were not in accordance with the terms of that competition. UNIQLO will not award the Grand Prize to another entrant or sell merchandise featuring the designs.”

As for what rules exactly Li Wen Pei violated, it seems it was this particular clause in the contest guidelines: “All submissions must be original designs and not have been published before.” After screenshots started circulating of the Ocean King design printed on smartphone cases and T-shirts on the popular Chinese e-commerce site Taobao, suspicions rose that he hadn’t followed that particular rule.

In response, Li Wen wrote a blog post on Weibo to make the following statement: “Hello everyone. I sold a small number of smartphone cases with the same artwork (before I submitted it for Pokémon UTGP 2019). Unfortunately, there are pirates who have pirated my artwork. Therefore please do not share the pirated goods.”

However, even if the t-shirts were pirated merchandise that Li Wen wasn’t selling himself, clearly selling the smartphone cases and admitting to it was enough to implicate himself and get kicked out of the competition.

Since then, another design has also been found guilty of being a previously sold design — this sumi-e ink wash design of Mewtwo by UK artist AJ Hateley.

Metwo sumi ink Pokemon T-Shirt Contest

She sold the t-shirts back in 2016, and although it’s not still in production, a Tumblr post announcing the launch seems to have been enough to incriminate her.

Remember folks, the internet is forever, and always remember to read the fine print.

What about the other Pokémon t-shirt designs?

As for the other t-shirt designs, they seem to be safe (for now…) and there’s still loads of sweet designs in the bunch! One of them is this cute Pikachu ice cream design by Gary Chen:

Uniqlo Pokemon T-Shirt Gary Chen

It looks so good, maybe it’ll inspire someone to make real Pikachu ice cream like this! We just hope they take some notes from the Pikachu donut disaster from last year.

Here’s another tee design by HVNN featuring all of our favorite ghost-type Pokémon, including the almighty Gengar, Mimikyu, Bnette, and Chandelure.

Pokemon T-Shirt by HVNN

Ayumi Kato from Japan submitted this neon silhouette design of Pikachu which wouldn’t look out of place along Osaka’s dotonbori.

Pokemon T-Shirt by Ayumi Kato

Dana from the Philippines created this cute origami-inspired design, which seems about on par for typical baffling origami instructions.

Pokemon T-Shirt by Dana

These and the other UT Grand Prix finalist t-shirt designs will go on sale starting June 24, 2019, in Uniqlo stores and sites worldwide. Adult sizes cost ¥1,500 yen ($14) and children sizes cost ¥990 ($9).

For more designs and to learn more about the UT Grand Prix, check out the competition website here (English).

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