I know what you’re thinking. “What controversy?”
And you’re right, there hasn’t been any real controversy—yet. But I think there’s a possibility for it, when we raise questions like…
+ How do designers feel about DIY?
+ What’s the difference between DIY and knockoff?
+ Is it okay to make a profit on DIY projects?
WHAT IS DIY?
Let’s start at the beginning. If you haven’t heard of it before, DIY is an acronym for “do-it-yourself.” It is used widely among crafters and people of other various hands-on professions (ever heard of DIY Network?).
The main purpose of DIY in fashion is for the “everyman” (or woman) to have access to the latest trends and styles without breaking the bank. The DIY blogging community has grown significantly over the past few years, a fact likely tied to the U.S.’s current economic state. DIYers create tutorials for clothing and accessories inspired by runway and street trends.
HOW DO DESIGNERS FEEL?
As someone who has DIYed for quite some time, I suppose I am a bit biased when I sing its praises. But a recent plagiarism of one of my past tutorials got me thinking: as a designer, how would I feel if someone took my idea for a DIY project? I’d like to think I’d be impressed and glad to inspire someone—imitation is the sincerest form of flattery—but then again, I might be offended. I imagine it’s 50/50 among designers.
Some brands have been known to partner with DIYers, most famously Erica Domesek of P.S. I Made This. She has worked with Helmut Lang, Tory Burch, and Kate Spade, among others. These designers obviously fall on the “flattered” side. I would assume the ones who are offended have a few reasons for feeling that way: because their ideas were “stolen,” the exclusivity of their product may be tarnished, and I’ve also been told that they may feel DIYers are stealing their business. The last of these is the least plausible, in my opinion. I highly doubt DIY fashion tutorials impact sales of high-end product—people who can afford to buy something are just going to buy it anyway. Someone who can afford a $5,000 Balmain jacket is going to get the real thing. They’re not going to hit up M&J Trimmings just because they saw a Youtube video. As for exclusivity, well, those on the inside track would know what the real thing looks like, and may even look down on someone in a handmade version. So, the biggest issue for designers has got to be the idea of “design stealing.” Then again, I can’t believe that Miuccia Prada would get her panties in a bunch over a few flame-painted wedges. You’d have to ask her.
DIY VS KNOCKOFF
Knockoffs are another story. It troubles me how frequently the words “DIY” and “knockoff” are used synonymously. A knockoff is defined as “a copy or imitation, especially of an expensive or designer product,” are sometimes made illegally, and are almost always sold for profit on a large scale. There are different levels of knockoffs—the least accepted in the fashion industry being the label-free handbags sold in Chinatown; the most accepted, studded jackets and peplum skirts at Zara.
DIYs are imitations, sure, but they are generally made for personal enjoyment and not for making money. Friends and family have often encouraged me to sell my DIY creations, but I usually refuse. As someone who does mostly designer-inspired projects, I just wouldn’t feel right about it.
However, there is another distinction to be made: designer-inspired DIY vs. trend-inspired DIY. Designer-inspired means you took the idea from your project straight from the runway of one or two designers or brands. A studded-bottom bag à la the Alexander Wang Rocco, for example. When doing a project like this and sharing it with others, it’s very important to credit the original inspiration. Claiming someone else’s idea as your own is not cool.
Trend-inspired DIY is more vague. You picked up on the neon trend, which has been everywhere, so you spray-painted your shoes hot pink. Trend-inspired DIY is much easier to sell without criticism.
Two of our DIY Editors here at Everybody Is Ugly, Sylvia and Samantha Wong of Lipgloss And Black, have been DIYing and selling their original creations in an online store for many years. They voiced their opinions on the topic…
Heather: Why do you DIY?
Syl & Sam: We started to DIY as teens because we loved alternative styles that were hard to find in stores. We would make or alter our own clothing and accessories so that we had our own unique wardrobes. Now it also helps us to save a lot of money because we’re able to reconstruct a lot of our old pieces or vintage items so that they’re on-trend again. In the end though, it’s something that we’ve really learned to enjoy doing and the feeling of creating something ourselves is so satisfying.
H: Where do you get inspiration for DIY projects?
S&S: We generally pick up on trends that we like & then make things that we desire to have in our own wardrobes. There’s no point in making a DIY post and then never wearing an item again!
H: If someone were to imitate one of your original designs in a DIY, do you think you would you be flattered or offended?
S&S: It happens quite often actually! We’ve been selling our handmade designs for about eight years now and we were initially offended and felt violated that some of our original ideas were “stolen” and being used to make profits. Now, we try and look at it more optimistically; we should be flattered that our designs are good enough to be copied. It’s hard for any creatives to obtain copyrights to designs and it’s just not really worth the trouble. We just figure, we just have to stay a couple steps ahead in terms of creativity to come out on top.
H: Would you feel uncomfortable wearing a designer-inspired DIY creation around someone who had the real thing?
S&S: We definitely went to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week wearing our repurposed vintage and DIY pieces proudly!
H: And that’s something to be applauded, especially because of the intimidation factor some fashion types posses. Thanks for your input!
Hopefully this article has helped you develop your own ideas about do-it-yourself fashion. It can be a touchy topic when getting into the specifics, but it’s also important to remember the fun and satisfaction one can get out of simply creating. Craft with a conscience, but don’t forget to enjoy yourself.
Check out some of Syl & Sam’s most recent articles for creative inspiration!