The term is not as cut & dry as you may think.
In our opinion, there are two distinct categories when discussing this
(illegal knockoffs; Product Produced and Sold by Thieves) –
these are most certainly illegal. Replica clothing, footwear,
or accessories are made with the concept of deceiving the consumer
into thinking that the product being sold is produced by a
particular company or brand. When in fact the product was not
produced by that company or brand. A good example would be
Louis Vuitton handbags. They are manufactured to look as
identical as possible to the originals but are not made of the true
high quality, etc.
(potentially illegal knockoffs; but not always against the rules) –
many designers are influenced by product they see in magazines,
stores, and on the streets. Some designers will see product
and copy it on purpose, but other designers may copy another
designers concept in a more accidental manner. It is
possible for designers to copy another designers concept without
doing so in a malicious manner.
What is a copycat?
According to the
Urban Dictionary a copycat is, “an obnoxious individual who, sickly,
gets off on copying, imitating, emulating, simulating or miming the
words, gestures and expressions of another individual."
What is a copycat fashion designer?
The “copycat designer" may not be as obnoxious as a
typical copycat. However, they most certainly would be annoying to
the company that had created the original concept that is being copied.
An example of copying a fashion concept in an
accidental manner can be as follows. Designer #1 decides that this
year the color yellow should be very important. They design a full
collection in Yellow and are the first to show it on the runway.
Designer # 2 enjoys viewing the collection while attending fashion
week. When they return to their office, they instruct one of their
illustrators to design a new collection and instructs them to utilize
yellow as the primary color. They quickly produce their collection
and ship to several boutiques in New York City and Paris. Designer
# 3 is on a seasonal trip to New York and notices that in a few of her
favorite stores she sees various lovely yellow garments (originally
designed by Designer # 1 & 2). Because designer # 3 see so much
yellow in the store, they decided they better create merchandise in the
Did Designer # 3 copy the color concept from
Designer # 1 who was the first to hit the market with the color???
They may have copied the color, but it was indirectly and not really on
purpose or in a malicious manner.
The above concept would hold true if we replaced
the word yellow with a particular type of fabric, silhouette, etc.
On occasion the clothing that we see may trickle
into our minds and influence future collections that we as an industry
may develop. A designer may borrow portion of another designers
concept, and then embellish it or make other changes to make it a more
original masterpiece. The reality is that a great deal of copycat
like designing takes place in the apparel industry. Some of which is
done fairly, and some may push the envelope a bit.
Knockoffs are a tricky concept in regard to
fashion. While knockoffs present obvious challenges to designers, they
also play an important role in the overall dissemination and life cycle
of trends. As trends develop they potentially help feed demand for
the original designer and often can improve sales for the entire
Some of your favorite fashion designers are copied,
but they have also most likely copied someone else at some point in
their career. We are not saying that they have all done so, but it
is a possibility. It is called “inspiration."
Walking through the small show, looking at a dress
from Yves Saint Laurent’s famous Mondrian collection (as well as copies
of it), and Jeremy Scott’s McDonald’s-themed Moschino collection, I
thought, who can say what is truly original? Counterfeits are one thing,
as evidenced by shockingly authentic looking copies of Vuitton and
Chanel bags that have a demonstrably negative effect on the originals.
But there are also gray areas, like those clever Brian
Lichtenberg-designed orange “Homies" sweatshirts that parody the Hermès
Coco Chanel has been quoted as saying, “If mine are
copied, so much the better. Ideas are made to be communicated." In
Coco’s days, designers were more protective of their collections than
those of today. Chanel herself banned illustrators from sketching her
designs, and Balenciaga and Givenchy banned the press altogether from
their shows at times. In today’s world, it is hard to keep any
secrets. Information about collections are posted on
Google Plus, Instagram,
And before the era of instantaneous, online
coverage, they did not even have to deal with the concept of “fast
fashion," in which mass retailers are able to produce and sell
credible copies of runway fashion often more quickly than the designers
It is important to note, we at Apparel Search are
NOT lawyers. We are not certain the official rules regarding
copyrights, etc. It is strongly suggested that you do NOT rely on our
comments above if you are seeking clarity in regard to the law.
You should consult with an expert on this matter if you are developing
your own collection or are facing legal questions on this subject.
What are your thoughts regarding knockoffs in the
fashion industry? Do you think they are a necessary part of the
industry or something that should be completely policed in a more
You may want to also read the
fashion copyrights page for
additional information on this topic.
fashion terms here on Apparel Search. We hope you have been
enjoying your reading.