ou step inside of Forever 21 in your local mall, all excited to shop after getting a little spending money from your mom or just getting paid at work. You see this beautiful red velvet mini dress, and for $25, what more could you want? After trying it on and falling in love, you cannot wait to buy it and walk around at the other surrounding stores with your new purchase in your yellow forever 21 bag. Your friends then decide to go to Pacsun, Zara, Brandy Melville, Urban Outfitters, Free People, and other stores similar, and you start noticing a pattern. Somehow now your red velvet dress you just bought doesn’t seem so special anymore, since you have seen it in 5 stores with, if you’re lucky, a slight variation like a button or zipper, but otherwise very similar. Why is this the case?
Whether it’s major brands stealing other major brands’ ideas or major brands copying designs of independent artists, it seems that this past year there has been more accounts than ever of designers copying each other and selling similar, if not the same, products. I often find myself wondering where some of the trending pieces this year originated from, since so many stores sell similar clothing now. One example of this is the sudden boom in two-piece sets. From boutiques in my town to big fashion names, I’ve seen the same red two-piece set, featuring a short-sleeve shirt with a tie in the front paired with shorts, about 7 different times. Who had this design idea originally? I couldn’t tell you.
Just this past summer, Zara ran into a dilemma with Tuesday Bassen, an artist from whom Zara copied designs for their pins. Forever 21 is also guilty of this, as seen below, copying a good number of independent designers, whether that was with Sam Larson and his “WILD” sketch which they put on a t-shirt (seen below), or copying Kelly Bastow’s sketch of a man looking up at a mountain. Urban Outfitters was accused of selling exact copies of Stevie Koerner’s pendants; the clothing giant’s argument was that there are a lot of similar pendants on Etsy, so she can’t take credit. Urban Outfitters has also stolen prints from society6 and put them on clothes (seen above); in fact, the store has run into so many instances that there is a Tumblr account called Boycott Urban Outfitters that exposes every time they are accused of theft and encouraging people not to shop there. So why are they still getting away with it? My guess is that well-known brands feel as though they can continue, as they believe that independent artists do not have the resources to really fight them.
Regarding well-known brands copying other well-known brands, it seems that as long as Louis Vuitton replaces the Michael Kors “MK” on their brown wristlet design and replaces it with the “LV” signature design, it counts as a completely new product. Zara, again is known to do this, taking big well-known brands’ ideas and selling them for cheaper. They’ve copied Nike sneakers, Dior dress designs, Prada shirts and dresses, Celine dresses, Marc Jacobs pants, a grey Balenciaga dress, and more. Gucci just recently sued Forever 21 (below) for copying their exact design of a silver bomber jacket with blue-and-red stripes; Forever 21 said the design was “random.” Guess and Gucci were even wrapped up in a large court case in 2012, when Guess was accused of copying Gucci sneakers.
Some would argue this is a good thing, since not everyone can afford the high-end stuff. But where is the sense of originality that so many designers say they live by? When brands rip each other off as obviously as some have, it takes the credit away from the real designer, and makes these brands look like they can’t create anything on their own.
It’s also hard for consumers like us to know which is the real deal when shopping. If I see the same sunglasses in Nordstrom as I do in a boutique downtown, how do I know which one is the original? Most people would buy them from Nordstrom, figuring that, since they are the better known name, the Nordstrom glasses must be the original. But, as we’ve seen, it is the independent artists and designers that are taken advantage of most.
Now this may be different in places like Chinatown, where most people know they are selling knock-offs, and the sellers tell you it looks just like the real thing. But when brands claim to steal other brands’ ideas and don’t own up to being inspired by them, or try to take full credit for the design, it becomes a new kind of ugly.
Image Courtesy of shoparttheft