Yesterday I posted another in a very long series of "Imitation = Flattery?" where I expose what I feel to be shoes that have crossed over from the trend inspiration realm and go way more into the blatent ripping off of another company's designs.
I wanted to clarify why I detest this practice so much and what I feel is really so wrong about buying these shoes and supporting the companies who engage in this regularly (*cough cough Steve Madden cough cough*).
To me it comes right down to theft.
Many would argue that the practice of knocking-off is no where near as egregious as is the explosion of counterfeiting going on the shoe world today (BTW - check out Michelle's new resource site: ShoeFraud.com) but I saw that it is.
These companies are stealing ideas aka Intellectual Property Theft.
I work in an industry where we are hired to generate ideas and to create concepts, so to me intellectual property theft is a huge issue. Essentially, someone has the audacity to come in, take advantage of the hard work, creativity and innovation we have worked hard to create and just slightly tweak it to serve there ends. When this happens, customers become confused, the original message is diluted and the value we created is minimized.
This is true for large marketing campaigns, but it is true for fashion and shoes as well.
Yes, as a consumer, it is very tempting to see a designer shoe that you fall in love with and realize that it is out of your price range. It can be very tempting when you find a very similar copy to want to buy the less expensive piece to get the same look.
But if you love the original you shouldn't and I'll tell you why.
Because every time you do that, you are helping to put the original designer out of business.
The innovation and creativity is not coming from the company doing the "inspired by" piece. They are not investing time and money to create new looks, to do research and hire experienced talented individuals. How can the first company continue to do business when they outlay all the costs and then get undercut in the end?
Sadly, it is still very difficult, not to mention expensive, for companies to prosecute against the fakes although they are trying to fight back. It doesn't help that there are laws in some countries that do a poor job of protecting original designs. Our favorite Despotic Queen of Shoes, ImeldaMatt, worked on an expose into Australia's high street rip-offs (make sure to see the original post and the Camilla Skovgaard post that started it):
I have to agree with Wendy Brandes, a designer herself, who made the following comment on an earlier post:
"No one has an inalienable right to wear designer looks. There were no fast fashion runway knockoffs back in the '80s and '90s when I couldn't afford designer clothes (excluding ABS). We wore other things! Put together our own non-designer outfits! It would be nice if the H&Ms and Forever21s came up with their own looks, but then how would they churn out product at such a fast clip? The inspiration well runs dry pretty fast."
I think fashion and good design can come at all price points. I've said many times that I don't care what the pedigree or cost is for a particular shoe - if it's cute I'll get it. I also like to spend my money on unique original ideas. I want to support that no matter where it comes from. That's why I typically don't buy "plain" shoes. What I want is for these companies to spend their time thinking up ideas at price points all along the range.
But if consumers keep buying the fakes, they won't. And if we keep buying the fakes and knock-offs we are going to limit the amount of great designs put out there for us to get excited about.
And that should make us very sad indeed.