Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Playing Fair?

I've never really voiced an opinion about the high street stores copying designs. I guess this is because it's really a mixed bag for me. Clearly, it's wrong. It's wrong to steal the work of an artist, which is what the high street is doing. But my feelings on the matter don't keep me from buying cheaper imitations. I would never buy a "fake" prada bag or one of those kinds of knock-offs that you get from street venders, but I'm not above buying a "designer-inspired" top from Forever 21. If I had lots of money, I wouldn't support this kind of practice, but I don't and I deal with it.

Lately I've just been wondering where to draw the knock-off line. At what point is something a knock-off? For example, take a look at the picture above. On the left is a dress (that I adore) from Anna Sui's Spring/Summer '07 line. On the right is an Anthropologie dress. Clearly both are similar - Same colors/color combintations, similar patterns - but the actual shapes of the garments are about as different as you can get. Knock-off, or no? Is Anthroplogie pitching a fair game? To be sure, the dresses are not copies of each other, but you could easily imagine them being from the same collection, and I immediately thought of the Anna Sui dress upon seeing the Anthropologie one.

Hmm. I can't decide. Any thoughts?


the Grey said...

That's actually one of the questions I've been pondering lately as well (it started when I was looking at some designer-inspired/knock-off bags online). I haven't arrived at an answer yet! Though in the case of the bags, I decided that until I can't afford the real thing, I'd rather buy cheaper originals instead of more or less direct copies of expensive bags.

In that dress's case the comparison is easily drawable I think because of the fabric/print/colour sameness, but if instead the Anthropologie dress had similar cut and structure but different fabric/colours to the Sui one, it might not be as immediately recognisable...

High street is kind of built upon the concept of designer-inspired anyway so if someone wants to take a strong stand against it they'd have to avoid everything in those stores altogether, just in case.

So is there a difference between a direct knock-off and 'inspired by'? And where do you draw the line between the two? My answer: no effing clue. :)

And does it make a difference whether it's a copy intended for profit or when someone, say a blogger, gets inspired by a designer piece and DIYs something similar for herself? The last one is common enough and I'm in the process of doing it myself (will post today or tomorrow about it, in fact..).

Ashe Romance said...

From a legal standpoint, it's really interesting to see how the fashion industry is not protected by copyright laws. A designer can put all of this effort in to creating a garmet, gathering fabrics, designing, etc., and their work is NOT protected in the US or the countries under the Berne Convention. They may, at best, be able to copyright their drawings and sketches, but not the finished product itself. The "best" protection they really have is their ability to patent a particular method of assembly, but only then if they're certain they are the only one who has ever done so.

On the flip side, is it fair for high fashion to be something that is inaccessible to the general public? While high art may not be affordable for the average person, it is available through museums and galleries, and is accessible to people that way. So if knocking-off, or being inspired by a design, is making a product available for the average public, is that necessarily a bad thing?

Kori said...

You both pose good questions. I have no idea. Ponder, ponder...:)

Eli said...

I think if you are young, and wont be able to afford the original, it can be fair. Im not generally saying that what forever 21/topshop/h&m does is the right thing, but I dont really know where I stand. Because I hate consumerism, but I also stand for orginality. When you try to copy a look with vintage or such, is it not really the same inspiration stealing?

Ashe Romance said...

[...]The Fashion-y Blog recently posted about designer knock-off, to which I replied with my typical hybrid of legal advice and devil's advocacy. Because the truth is, that fashion designers have little to protect their intellectual interests--[...]

Betty said...

Sorry to comment so late on this, but the Anthropologie dress is actually designed by Anna Sui (she does an exclusive line for the store).
The underlying question of what constitutes a knock-off (versus just something that's similar or "inspired by") is still interesting, however--and if the copyright bill passes, the courts will have a devil of a time with it.

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