Saturday, 20 April 2013

Fashion design or fashion copycat? You decide.

For me, the process of design is the invention and evolution of a concept applied to a physical object.

I like fashion, so am always interested and keep abreast of the couture collections.  I do feel rather sorry for fashion designers these days.  It must be so hard to come up with something trendsetting all the time.  If they didn't, we wouldn't need to buy new clothes and they would be out of a job.

It seems that some designers just reproduce, curate or tweak past designs.  Frida Giannini, the creative director of Gucci is notorious for utilizing the fashion house's archives as a source rather than an inspiration.  For this season's silk scarves, she reprinted the same scarf designs that were first designed in 1966.  

She does get maligned for just reproducing rather than designing her own trademark like Tom Ford did - so much so that her notoriety caused people to wonder how she got away with simply recycling old designs and everyone wondered who she must be sleeping with.

Turns out -  it was her boss, CEO of Gucci, Patrizio di Marco but LVMH is a family company. They followed the example and now have a family of their own as she gave birth last month...

So I was interested to see the official Oxford dictionary definition of the word design.


[with object]
  • decide upon the look and functioning of (a building, garment, or other object), by making a detailed drawing of it:a number of architectural students were designing a factory

After I read this definition, I realized that perhaps we were all being a bit hard on old Frida.  But at what stage is it recycling versus poaching?  The legal arena is still in the process of setting precedents and there are a few lawsuits going on at present.

There have been a few cases recently where high end fashion designers like Diana von Furstenberg and Anna Sui are suing high street chains such as Forever 21, Target, and H & M.  But copyright law in design is such a murky area.  

To put it simply, only certain elements of style are protected under intellectual property law so things can be easily disputed.

But from my point of view, nothing is original so will this not cause a chain reaction of everyone suing each other?  I would be very reluctant to be a lawyer on either the defense or prosecution in these sorts of lawsuits.  

But I would love to be a member of the jury so why don't you join me and become a fellow member.  

A few cases I would like to present for consideration.

This is Isabel Marant's accessory collection for S/S 2013

Via Matchesfashion website

Isabel Marant is doing her earthy and tribal boho feel niche but is this influenced or just a tweaked copy of Maasai jewellry?

This woman is so damn chic.
Slim, gamine hairstyle, and she is bringing baby back.
There is the French concept of regional trademark law called AOC standing for Appellation d'origine controlee to protect products such as Champagne from that specific region in France and Parmesan cheese from the Parma region in Italy.  So could the Massai tribe insist that this type of beading is trademarked to their specific region in Africa?  I say this one would be a long drawn out lawsuit with a decision going either way.  

Shall we move on to the next example?

Lovely collection of wearable checks from SS 2013 Adi Heyman


Are her designs loosely inspired and based on 
her own orthodox Jewish dressing code of modesty or 
did she go on holiday to Bhutan and get inspired?


Schoolchildren in Bhutan, the diva being front center is universal.

Top two images via

I ask you, the jury, do these school children and the Bhutan Ministry of Education have enough contextual evidence for a lawsuit?
I don't think the same AOC laws would apply. However, specific elements of style of print and color are replicated on the collection.

Does the same principle apply to the 
Dolce Gabbana cruise collection?
Both images via

One more case for your consideration fellow juror.

THE checkerboard dress from the Louis Vuitton collection designed by Marc Jacobs is ubiquitous and has been worn by every blogger and celebrity this spring season.

upper right and upper image via

Now the checkerboard dress is relatively simple so what could be the problem?

The dress debuted for the general public in the January Harper's Bazzar magazine modeled by Sienna Miller.

This dress costs several thousand dollars to purchase in retail outlets. 

But I reckon this woman below was the inspiration.
( Supposed transcript of phone call to LVMH HQ)

"Can I speak to Marc Jacobs please?
No, he is not expecting my call exactly.
It's Anodiwa.

He might remember me if you tell him I am the seamstress in the safari lodge he stayed at in South Africa over new year's who fixed 
his "skinny jeans" that made like all those banana sundaes 
he ate all day long and split.  

Oh Hello Marc...
Remember me now, doncha?
Of course it was all those banana splits that 
ripped your trousers.

Yes, I know your boyfriend was eating them all day long as well but he has the metabolism of a twenty four year old because he is.

Anyway, I saw the HB spread of my dress I made for your "niece".  To be honest, I thought it was for your friend.
 I forget her name - the woman who is bananas. 
Yes that's it, Rachel Zoe.  
Anyway, the reason why I call is either buy me my whole village or I am emailing Women's Wear Daily. What's it gonna be?"

So I ask you, members of the jury, is the possible genesis for the idea of the dress and this phone call enough evidence 
to pursue legal recourse?

What say you?

I can not photo credit the last photo - I found it in February and can not find source anymore as I saved it cropped so if anyone know please let me know! Thanks.


  1. Love it - very funny. You know, the first day of my Architecture degree the lecturers stood up and told us "there are no new designs in the world, so everything you do will be a copy of someone's work". Probably quite true. I suppose it's just tweaking so that it's not direct plagiarism that's key. Loved the picture of the Masai woman, such beautiful colours and ornamentation.

    As for Gucci... I bought a pair of their 1973 reissue knee high riding boots last year. I liked them because they were so well designed. I don't really mind if design houses plunder their archives and reissue things - there were good reasons why their designs have stood the test of time. I guess the problem comes when they're not really coming up with anything new at the same time, which Gucci sort of isn't.

    Your photo comparison reminds me though of a photo in the newspaper years ago - as in 15 years ago about the rise in luxury branding awareness. It had a photograph of an African woman all dressed up for a local wedding, carrying a handbag which she'd written "Louis Vuitton" on. A couple of years later Louis Vuitton launched their Graffiti inspired range. I couldn't help but think of the news article (pre internet, so no pics found on the web). Was interesting... xx

    1. Yes the wheel has been invented hasn't it...

      I do agree about the quality of great design and like the chanel suit, sometimes you can't improve on it but if someone just takes stuff out of archives then frankly I could be head of Gucci.

      I just think that it is a little hypocritical of people suing each other in the realm of art and creation because of this issue. But I do think it is funny when high end stuff is totally poached by street and third world x

  2. Somethings just end up making sense in the big picture (ha!).
    Lovin your humor!
    xx, Heather

    1. Thanks Heather, but you are right - a picture is worth a thousand words right? xo

  3. let's go start an agency and represent Masai women.

    we would rock.

    1. oh yes, you might rock but I think I would end up like Ari on entourage...x

  4. Great post and interesting reading, I didn't know that Guccis designer had a baby...xo Caroline

    1. Thanks Caroline - yes they admitted finally they were a couple after much speculation and she gave birth very recently! xx

  5. Really good insigts... and very good research ... Well done!! Original thought is a rarity today! Jenny

    1. Hi Jenny, means a lot actually because I told myself that there are plenty of copy and paste post bloggers out there so I must strive to add something personal so I really appreciate your compliment!

  6. This really made me laugh!
    I have no real issue with designers recycling designs, as long as they are open about it and don't try to pretend it's some unique new print or item.
    I think it is impossible to be original in fashion. There's little that hasn't been done before.
    Isabel Marant rips off Masai jewellery, chain stores rip off Isabel Marant and the whole original gets watered down....
    Very interesting post.

    1. You are right - how can one be original - even the potato sack has been done for crying out loud. I just don't appreciate the bullying of the well established brands out there and they should just acknowledge they also copied from some obscure 1940's italian tailor in Naples. Otherwise let them eat couture for all I care!

  7. Amazing post I love it. I have often thought about how the high street in particular can get away with replicating designs so closely that are essentially the signature and gold-mine of a brand. For example I think Mr Alexander McQueen must have been pretty peeved that Primark was making scarves with skulls on and people were confusing it with McQ scarves. The satchel - how peeved must Julie Deane of Cambridge Satchel Company be with all these replica satchels. How can anyone including YSL get away with producing the red sole shoe! I hate the fact that Chloe Green has bought out a green sole shoe - same Louboutin concept, different colour but pretty much riding off the back of Louboutins miraculous idea!

    For me if I was in court I would say the difference is to do with whether these copy cats are affecting the sales of the trendsetters. So the Massai woman (of which your comparison was amazing by the way!) does not affect the sales and profits of Louis vuitton and vice versa. However, Primark selling copycat scarves could affect sales of McQ. But I guess ultimately that's what the high street is about, bringing us the designs that we can't afford and manufacturing a cheap copy design to suit our budget!

    However I couldn't knock or find a designer guilty if they have just taken inspiration from somewhere or someone whose intention was not to make money or design fashion in the first place - e.g. the Bhutan children.

    Hope this makes sense, I seem to have been typing for ages! xx

    1. Yes it totally makes sense! To be frank, I mentioned on a reply to Chinwags but I am still upset that Mr Louboutin didn't win his case. It is such a unique elemental style and is so distinctive and no other shoe designer considered the sole as an aspect of the whole appearance not even Blahnik.

      Don't get me wrong counterfeit goods are another story but you are right about the skull scarves that Primark did - that is actually an odd one - I need to find the source but apparently there is an odd thing that happens when an item is copied - they say that the original item is then even more coveted because the perception is that it is the item to have.( very psychological and rather mental! )

      But this is all part of the fun and the circus of the world that is fashion I suppose! xx

    2. "they say that the original item is then even more coveted because the perception is that it is the item to have."

      ooops guilty! x

  8. Very funny indeed Ms. CSW!! I think that my main problem with designers is the fact that they rarely come up with anything new. Everything just seems to veer between being a rehash of old ideas and a new collection of shapeless bags. I think the most creativity they show is in the pricing of their garments. Classic pieces are different though - these items have stood the test of time and don't need to be played around with. I'm nominating you to be the new head of Gucci - you know they'll listen to me!

    1. Oh yes, they do get very creative and algebraic with the prices rather than then cut and sizing of the pieces itself. Have you noticed they make people feel skinny the more expensive the brand? In Chanel, I am like a size 2 and in Primark I am a triple digit. Great reason to buy luxury brands I say. Oh yes please Sulky, do an expose on fashion designers - then they get fired and I get a new job!

    2. I'm laughing away here at 'creative' pricing!
      Here in Aus, our local labels get more and more creative in their pricing every year...simple cotton tee by Bassike $120? I don't think so....
      And don't even get me started on the price of shoes here... I swear the shops just chuck an extra 200% on just in case someone is stupid enough not to care.

  9. grey matters. these days designers just copy to get inspired.

    1. I am not sure how the designers get inspired - but I guess every designer has their own modus operandi.

  10. Like you said - murky area... Even if you find something similar (or exactly the same) that already exists, you can't be sure that Marc Jacobs or Isabel Marant saw and copied it. I can't remember who but some philosopher said that we all draw from the same pool of ideas so you might think a concept is original (and it is) but it can be original for someone else on the other side of the planet too. Not in the case of Forever 21 though.:D Zara copies everything and so does H&M. I like that because I can actually afford something I see on the runways. But I get that designers hate that and if it came to it, I'd support them - stealing ideas is just as wrong as stealing cars.

    1. Yes it is rather murky but if companies start accusing others of stealing then they have to be held to the same standard right?

      I appreciate the high street brands of being inclusive and it is a win win IMHO.

  11. For me, fashion is just a way to inspire yourself from previous collections and adapt it to the actual market! That's why I just keep all my clothes because I know they'll be fashion again at a moment in the future :-)

    1. Yes I try and keep things to but sometimes you have to let things go and just when you do it comes back in again!!

  12. There may not be too many originals out there, but you are ONE my dear!
    Truly fabulous post!!

  13. nice post, It s kinda nice to see where they get inspired and adapt to fashion "it" products

  14. Ooh that is a tough question! I don't know how that works in the fashion world, but I've seen it a lot! Very great thought provoking post;)!

    1. It is a tough one right? Judge and jury is still out...

  15. There isn't too much originality out there but on rare occasions, it will appear! At the moment, my two fave originals are Balenciaga for their architectural brilliance in the clothes they design and Phillippe Stark who comes up with fab furnishings~ I am so enthralled with his ghost chair!!

    You have a wonderful thought provoking blog, babe!!

    Lauren at adorn la femme

    1. Hi Lauren, yes I also adore Balenciaga - I think there is an architecture background there or am I mistaken? Philippe Stark is a thinker and he does try and push the envelope for sure. His ghost chair is truly standing up to the trends. Thanks for your compliment especially as you are so fashion forward xx

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