Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What do we have if we don't have our own integrity...

Christina's bird skull necklaces, that went into production for her jewelry line, Arms and Armory, three years ago.  For those of you who think it looks familiar, you probably have seen the copy (I won't name the designer here, but props if you can figure it out yourself) that has been floating around for the past year.


This is a very difficult subject for me to write about.  A couple of months ago, one of my favorite bloggers, and fellow DIY aficionados, Outi from OutsaPop, wrote about copying versus inspiration in design.  Outi, like us, has worked has a professional designer in the fashion industry for years, and anyone within the business will let you know that copying runs rampant in design.  And while I can't say that I haven't ever bought a pair of knockoff shoes at Forever 21, I certainly can't help but get a little aggravated over the subject matter.

As any of you who regularly read this blog knows, we ourselves often are inspired directly by looks from the runways when we are creating our outfits for Six Six Sick.  At the same time, we are making these outfits as DIYs for ourselves for non-commercial purposes, with no intent to actually sell or profit from them, and when we blog about the outfits we make, we cite all of the sources of inspiration.  I am a huge believer in DIY whenever this is possible (often it is not), and I don't believe that this ultimately cuts into a designer's sales since the end result never hits the market.

When we design commercially for our own lines, or design for other companies, we also are inspired by multiple sources, but always make sure that the designs are not directly lifted from another designer.  Being inspired is obviously vital to constant creation, but sometimes designers take the easy way out and find themselves copying something exactly from someone else.

Most often, the people who get in trouble for this are the mass retailers, like Forever 21, who are completely unafraid of the negative publicity, and undeterred  by potential lawsuits.  The only thing that they have changed is that recently, it seems like they've been looking to copy smaller designers, who have less means with which to fight back.  I've recently seen their knock offs from Obesity and Speed, Bless, and Rick Owens, to name a few of the surprising choices.  One of my friends told me that at a tradeshow, a Forever 21 designer came up, introduced herself, and asked if she could buy a single piece from one of the lines she was representing.  The purpose of the garment she wanted to order was obvious, and my friend politely declined.

While we can shake our heads at these large companies, ultimately I feel like they are business corporations without any creative heart or soul, and certainly without moral center.  On the other hand, when a small company or designer copies another small designer and sells that idea as their own, it actually makes me much angrier.  This designer MUST take accountability for their creative actions and decisions, and if they chose to blatantly plagiarize someone else's work, the moral onus is on themselves, rather than being masked by the cover of a larger, faceless organization.  Both Christina and I have had our work copied before, and most disappointingly, we find that it hasn't come from H&M or another megastore, but at the hands of other young designers in similar positions as ourselves. 

There are many faults with the fashion industry, too many to even begin mentioning here.  And when you work in it, there is little that you can control outside of your own actions.  As a designer, I feel like you have a responsibility to others and yourself to maintain your integrity.  What goes around comes around.  And at the end of the day, the designers who will be remembered aren't the ones who blindly imitate other people, but the ones who have a true individual voice of their own.  What do you think?

-Tiffany

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17 comments:

LuxiRare said...

great post. You guys have such a strong viewpoint because youve got industry experience/and are well knowledged with the creation of clothing. I totally agree about forever 21 copying smaller designers and how that may not be THAT intense. I actually think in a way, its ok because in the end the designer copied will receive some sort of press. Maybe I don't even care that much that forever 21 copies, because it's not like they are trying to come off as originals, we know that they cater to the bottom rung of the fashion pyramid. But when pamela love (which is what these necklaces remind me of) starts copying this crap directly yes it makes me more pissed because just like you said they are operating from the concept of ORIGINALITY so its even more fuckin shameful. And don't even get me started on that Erin wasson body chain which was REALLy by Bliss Lau. Why people have the audacity to shit on FOREVER 21 and why bloggers put Wasson on a pedastal iS TOTALLY FUCKING BEYOND ME! GREAT POST!

LADIVASOSA said...

^^^ I couldn't have said it better myself. You hit it on the head.

Alicia/InstantVintage said...

Wonderful post and I totally agree with you.

Sarah A. said...

i dont care how many copies ive seen, i couldnt be happier to have one of the originals.

Juliet said...

You've brought out the topic extremely well, I totally agree with you, but hey everyone does it for their own for a much cheaper price tag. from what i remember etsy is copying designs and selling it to the public, but your not that position.

Great post lovely.

www.herinfluences.blogspot.com

Cecilia said...

Great post, I could almost feel the emotion in it. Many small designers and business owners get away from larger fashion retailers or companies within the fashion industry to get away from the "politics" of corporate America, dog-eat-dog environment. Sometimes even then it still exists, like you mentioned about the F21 designer asking to buy your friend's design at a trade show. It is also devastating to see that without permission or credit, a small designer has copied off of the bird skull necklace! Is anything being done about it?

KB said...

What a great post, F21 seem so blatant at doing this. It's sad that new designers suffer, but then they aren't really catering to the F21 market. It's also tricky to enforce, and I know that through my course at uni, any work placement I take on may have an element of this, which is sad.

Pammy said...

I'm ashamed to share that designer's name.

Ani said...

great post i agree with u!
love this blog

cheers from croatia!!

Kristin said...

I have two points:

1. I'm in awe of many designers and their skills. I simply cannot afford their garments at this point in my life. But promise, I'm cultivating and refining my tastes for when I do have cash for collecting pieces.

2. DIY is flattery, and in the end the more press/blogging/talking/chatter you have out there--the more successful the designer will become.

3. And coming from a feminist punk rock DIY culture I want to really be cautious about the classist and elitist nature of fashion and accessibility. It is my firm belief, that if one has the passion and desire--they too can "get that look".

I'm still trying to bridge the gap between these conflicting issues. I really like what Andrea Crews is doing as far as fashion and activism goes.

The Six Six Sick Girls said...

Hey-

Thank you guys for the support. I actually posted that picture as a single example from the past, and it is only representative of one incident. There have actually been far worse incidents of copying that we have undergone as designers, but who has the time or energy to get into every case. The reason I wrote the post is because we are currently undergoing a debate with a designer who has used our work within their design without our permission. I'm not going into the details of this situation now, because I would like to give the opportunity to the designer, who is also an acquaintance of ours, to pull the design from production, which we have requested. Sadly, this is all just part and parcel of being a designer.

xxx,
Tiffany

WendyB said...

Great post. I certainly take a lot of inspiration (Boleyn Necklace, anyone? Ha!) from antiquity, but even then I never COPY the original piece. I know plenty of jewelry designers who cast right from the original. I remake it myself and in my opinion improve it. I couldn't imagine sitting down with something from Tiffany or Jennifer Meyer or anyone and just copying it,the way Steve Madden plops photoshopped Christian Louboutin images on its website. One thing I always keep in mind is that it's lucky I have a million ideas, because I feel like I'll get knocked off badly one of these days and I will just have to move on to the next thing.

Lani said...

great post. you bring up a lot of good points, like big companies copying smaller & younger designers. it's so awful! and yes, possibly more surprising and disappointing is small designer copying small designer.

totally stinks that you & christina have both been ripped, but you ladies are so fantastic and creative that the universe will find a way to work itself out. people can steal what you've already done, but they can't still what you will do next.

Princess Poochie said...

As some one who likes to support independant designers and crafters, not only by buying their pieces but also by promoting them to others, it makes me mad to see my "friends" ripped off. There is no excuse for it. Since I work in Adv/Mrkt, I'm in the same boat for intellectual property and think you really need to be on the look out and go after the folks ripping you off... not matter who it is or how big they are.

Verhext said...

Good article, but I stocked those bird necklaces from a different vendor (I can't recall the name, unfortunately - I know Halloween in Philadelphia has them in 1993 as well) when I ran a small goth boutique in 1997. Not exactly an original design in general.

miss a. said...

I love how you guys are bringing up serious issues within the industry that are so grossly overlooked. I was just thinking the other day about the F21/Obesity & Speed rip in comparison to the one with F21/DVF. It's so sad that intellectual property rights are so vastly underwritten and given such little recognition. (I think I read somewhere that even if you were to obtain the proper copyrights, which could take anywhere from months to years, it would still be only covered for a period of 2 years starting from the moment you receive the copyright. WTF?) What's so sad now is that it's become so hard to distinguish the difference between an inspiration and a straight copy. People are getting sneakier about their elements of design.

I'm so sad to hear about the bird skull necklace. But anyone with an ounce of a brain can tell that nothing truly original has come from that girl's head. Wasn't she holding a bottle of super glue in the photo where she was "making" jewelry? (sometimes I wish the internet could better convey the sarcasm in my tone - at the end of that question, I would normally add a scoff)

nikkimoose. said...

agreed. done and done