Any fashionista recognizes the coveted Louis Vuitton bag she’s eyeing is bound to be copied, counterfeited and sold in back alleys for a teeny tiny fraction of the price of the bag she’s shilling out a month’s salary to have and hold for a season before it’s proclaimed dated. Whether you support knock offs or not it is easy to see why trend setters may opt for a $100 statement bag rather than its $3500 equivalent. There are the counterfeits you find from strange sites in broken english complete with faux Tory Burch symbols, quilted patent leather, and Louis Vuitton monograms and then there are the more accepted dupes: the Chloe look alike flats I picked up from Lauren Conrad’s line at Kohl’s, the over the knee suede boots seen at Forever 21 that look almost identical to the Stuart Weitzman styles, the dress from H&M that emulates the Prada style from last spring.
Coco Chanel even uttered “Fashion should slip out of your hands. The very idea of protecting seasonal arts is childish. One should not bother to protect that which dies the minute it is born“. Though fashion has evolved since the time of Chanel’s founder, any scholar of fashion can see her point. With new trends coming out seasonally, in a world where one minute you’re in and the blink of an eye later you’re out…is there really a reason to call “copycat”.
Most U.S. courts would argue “no”, in fact fashion isn’t protected by the same intellectual property copyright laws as film, art and literature. Fashion is deemed too utilitarian for strict artistic copyright protections and though fashion is an art form and certainly a reflection of culture, it serves a much broader purpose. We can’t patent a leather jacket, a sheath dress or a heeled leather boot-the process would be a mess!
So where does inspiration end and flat out sheisty counterfeiting begin? I think most of us can agree a pair of Tory Burch lookalike flats isn’t a big deal unless the shoe in question bares the same signature logo. Not surprisingly, most legal experts seem to feel the same way. Copying as inspiration has helped to establish global trends faster and even to accelerate creative innovation (much like the software industry where experts can build of each other’s findings, research and innovations)…we wouldn’t all be wearing lace up flats if there weren’t versions available at every price point.
Knock offs are prevalent and many of the stores consumers know and love are entirely based off of knocked off designer looks (Forever 21, H&M and Zara I’m looking at you). So, depending on who you are and how invested you are in the world of fashion knock offs really aren’t too bad. Fashion is an inspired art form, even top designers gain inspiration and ultimately “steal” the looks and works of other designers, cultures and periods. There is a great story about about Miuccia Prada stumbling into a vintage shop in Paris, picking up a Balenciaga jacket, examining it from every angle and proclaiming she would not only buy the jacket but replicate it. Was she copying or selectively curating pieces from the past and allowing them to style her collection?
Johanna Blakey’s Ted Talk on the free spirited ownership model in the fashion world was intriguing and inspiring! Are the non existent copyright laws in the fashion world bad for designers or a catalyst for innovation? I like to think of blogging (and fashion blogging) in a similar light.
We are all inspired by each other’s writing, fashion and blog posts, what do you consider inspiration versus straight up copying?