Designers and retailers are due for a day in court over copycatting—but where does that leave us shoppers, asks Kerry Potter
In a recent survey, 75% of women admitted they'd knowingly purchased a counterfeit designer item”
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but the world's elite fashion houses are none too pleased with the imitations of their wares that department stores favour. In a recent survey, 75 percent of women admitted they'd knowingly purchased a counterfeit designer item—and more than half said they were aware it was a knock-off. Indian stores appear to largely fly under the radar for copying, but it's clear from the number of, um, 'inspired by Tory Burch" ballerina flats for sale that imitation is in full swing. Overseas, however, a number of stores aren't so lucky—Forever 21 is being sued by 50 different fashion houses for copying designs. "A decade ago there was a clear distinction between designers and the chains," says Louise Nash, a fashion lawyer who represents labels who feel their designs have been copied. "Now, the knock-off cycle has sped up, due to designers using digital media to put their product out." Jewellery designer Rosie Wolfenden speaks from experience: "Social media has sped things up—it's so difficult to keep anything under wraps. It's virtually impossible to stop people—editors, bloggers, trade show attendees—from taking pictures of products before they come out."
Good copy, bad copy
Nash also points to the advancement in technology that allows copies to be created at lightning speed. Now litigious designers are using new technology themselves to hit back at the imitators. As an example, Nash will give a picture of an item a designer believes is being copied to her tech team, who will send 'robot crawlers' around the Internet to find illicit copies for sale on various sites across the world. As for the future, Nash believes we will see more court cases. But we'll also see designers striving to create pieces that are harder to replicate— using more logos, for example, or more complex prints and multilayered techniques.
Grab a collab
Happily, some designers and stores have shown they can be friends—and voilà, the rise of the collaboration. Recent big hitters include Mary Katrantzou at Topshop and Marni at H&M. There's also Topshop's line by Scottish designer Louise Gray, and H&M's collaboration with Maison Martin Margiela, besides the local collaborations (see box). Diffusion ranges also offer high end style for less—most of us couldn't stretch to the Marc Jacobs main line, but a handbag from Marc by Marc Jacobs isn't out of reach. And don't forget vintage fashion as a way to add flair to your wardrobe. Not only can you buy designer items at a fraction of the cost, you'll be able to pick one-off pieces to reference catwalk trends without being too literal. So where does this leave us, the fashion-savvy who need to pay rent? The big designers might not like the blurring of boundaries between high end retail chains, but shoppers will always love luxe for less.
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