There’s the notorious knock off bags seen on the arm of almost every teenager purchased in a shady store, but what about established stores that produce replicas? Sometimes, pieces are simply “inspired by,” but does blatantly copying a design cross the line?
MASS RETAIL’S MASS OFFENSES
Brands such as Forever 21 have long been known to rip-off designers – from Anna Sui to Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Lovers, to Diane von Furstenberg. Many of us know that Forever 21 can produce a near-exact replica for mere pennies compared to the real deal. However, the average consumer just sees Forever 21 as a retail store to purchase on trend, inexpensive items. She may not even realize that the cute $30 dress in her shopping bag is nearly identical to a $300 dress seen on the runway, nor may she even care.
Forever 21 has been subjected to many lawsuits for this recurring issue from designers angered over stolen work. Indeed, it’s quite understandable that any artist would be infuriated over someone profiting from his or her work. However, in this case, are Forever 21’s customer base may rarely overlap with that of the designer. While the design is still stolen, it isn’t as though many intending to purchase the designer’s item would be willing to compromise with a cheaply made version from a mass-retail store.
THIS SEASON’S BEST SHOES, FOR LESS!
Perhaps the lace-up booties in the main image seem familiar. They’re the highly-coveted shoe of 2010, the Alexa by Jeffrey Campbell. They sold out nearly everywhere, and even finding a pair on eBay can be tough. The name, inspired by Alexa Chung, comes as no surprise, since she was spotted wearing the original Acne Atacoma.
This isn’t Jeffrey Campbell’s first (or last) offense. They’ve also produced replicas of Ann Demeulemeester, Charles Anastase, Opening Ceremony, Akiko Ogawa, Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana, Givenchy, Ash, Burberry, Stella McCartney, Camilla Skovgaard, and Mini Market, to name slightly more than a few, as illustrated by the “Real vs. Steal” segment on InTheirCloset among many other “get the look for less” fashion blogs.
They, along with other high street brands such as Topshop, Office, and Steve Madden, produce shoes with easier-to-digest prices, even if only slightly so. A pair of Topshop shoes will still set you back $100-200, which is indeed considerably cheaper than the original.
However, brands like these are directed toward fashion forward women – many of whom are familiar with the designers who inspired the designs or may potential be a customer. They’re just excited to get the same look for a much lower price, and understandably so since these brands generally do produce well-made goods.
CORPORATIONS VS. THE INDEPENDENT ARTIST
Recently, Urban Outfitters was under fire for stealing the idea of a heart-in-state necklace from the Etsy artist Stephanie Koerner’s shop tru.che. Similar to the cases of Jeffrey Campbell et al., many fans of Etsy overlap with Urban Outfitters’ clientele, and may be familiar with the slightly-more-expensive products from independent artists but instead opt for the big store’s version.
Several critics pointed out that the design had existed prior to she began selling. By this logic, either brand could be “borrowing” the design from a multitude of sources.
WHERE DOES INSPIRATION COME FROM, ANYWAY?
Designers and artists find inspiration anywhere, from nature to vintage clothing to architecture to everyday objects. Sometimes, even among established designers, the line between inspiration and direct copying can become blurred. Many say that fashion is rarely ever truly original, and that most styles and ideas are merely recycled or reused.
However, with releases so close together, it’s hardly a coincidence that designer-inspired items end up on the shelves of any fashion-oriented retail store.
The question is, is it ethical? You tell us. We’d love to hear your input!
Image via Jeffrey Campbell.