Monday, November 16, 2009

Imitation = Flattery?

Typically when I do an "Inspriation = Flattery?" post I'm talking about how a company is knocking off or heavily leveraging the design of another company or designer. But what I am seeing more and more (I'm sure you are too) are celebrity lines somewhat claiming to be based on the spokesperson's style but in reality reproducing the real designer pieces they wear in public.

And with the "celebrity" blogger gaining more and more prominence, it was bound to happen in the blogging realm too. The J. Aldridge by Sea of Shoes collection at Urban Outfitters is really one of the first... I'm sure more are to follow.

Now right off the bat, I am not knocking Jane from Sea of Shoes and I'm entirely basing this on my own opinion and perceptions combined with the PR where Jane states that she designed the shoes based on what she has in her closet. That's more than most companies will say! I just find it interesting that these companies (not just this particular instance) will dumb down and knock off a designer style rather than think up new pretty shoes on their own. I will buy cute shoes at any price point but I don't want lame substitutes.

As stated in the UO press release:

"Jane Aldridge may be just 17 years old, but the Dallas-based fashion blogger has an impressive global following on her personal style blog, Sea of Shoes. "Ever since I've reached my full shoe size I've been fanatical about collecting shoes," says Aldridge. "That's how my blog got started, as a means of chronicling my addiction to beautiful footwear and the evolution of my personal style," she adds.

The magnetic Texas teen has to wear a school uniform five days a week with a one and a half inch heel rule, but outside of class, flats are the last thing you'll see her wearing. From YSL cage heels and Chanel bow-tie booties to Margiela clogs, Aldridge pairs her favored heels with equally envied outfits. And now, she has found another creative outlet for her passion; designing shoes herself, with the help of Urban Outfitters.

Launching next month, J. Aldridge by Sea of Shoes is a capsule collection of three styles, exclusive to Urban Outfitters. Dramatic knee-high brown leather peep-toe boots feature top-stitched detailing and lacing at the front, black gladiator heels with studs and twin buckle straps, and lace-up, pointy skimmers. "I'm really excited to bring my designs to Urban Outfitters," says Aldridge. "The inspiration for this collection is a mish-mash of some of the elements of my favorite pairs—sort of Victoriana meets gladiator warrior."

So here are what I think are the inspirations pieces and the actual shoe in UO.

Top - Chanel bow booties in pink, mesh and black. Bottom - JA SOS Satin Bow Heels in pink and black.

Next - Chloe Lace-up Wedge Booties from Jane's shoe picks for Fall 2009.

Left - Chloe bootie. Right - JA SOS Wedge Bootie

Next, Spring 2006 Prada lace-up peep-toe boots.

I think the JA SOS Laced Boots are a combo of the Ann Demeulemeester triple lace boots and the Prada peep-toe boots.

Last on the left are the Ann Demeulemeester open lace sandal heels and the JA SOS laced flats.

Jane is a very pretty girl who has a great sense of style... combined with access to and the ability to buy amazing new and vintage designer clothes and shoes. She also has a mother, very stylish herself, who has a history as a model and working in the retail business, I believe.

I'd be curious to know how much of the designing she was able to do and how much was Urban Outfitters sifting through her closet and finding pieces they could bring down to a more mass-market level. I'd also love to know, if anyone has bought these, what the quality is like.

As with most celebrity lines and their "creators", I'm waiting to see Jane wearing "her" pieces. Chloe Sevigny is the only one that comes to mind who wore her shoes out quite a bit. Jane has a lot of fans and is getting a lot of attention. I think that is great. What I don't think is great is that her name is being used to sell a product that she didn't really come up with and that she doesn't wear.

Does this bother anyone else?


Imelda Matt - The Despotic Queen of Shoes said...

I don't know where to I won't, because I don't think I could stop myself. Also, since we end up on all the same 'best footwear blog' lists my objections could (and would) be I leave this one up to Imelda.

Imelda Matt - The Despotic Queen of Shoes said...

I will concede you're right, at least they (UO) haven't tried to package this as something other than knock-offs.

Candice DeVille said...

Hell yes it bothers me! I am so tired of this regurgitation and outright design plagerism being given the much more palatable title of "inspired". I wonder just how much creative freedom Jane was given or how much her hand was guided by the marketing team and what they know already has a track record of sales?
As bloggers, I'd like to think that we are doing something different. That we are getting back to the source of our inspiration and creating things that are honest,unique and real.That we aren't driven by a marketing bottom line or pandering to the masses. After all - that has been the foundation of the popularity of bloggers.
Sadly, it seems that the concept of watered down "inspiration" work has filtered down to the bloggosphere in several ways. Not least in the number of bloggers blatantly hijacking each other's personal style and even resorting to plagarism. (Sorry perhaps that is a little off topic)

I think Jane has been given a golden opportunity here to show that bloggers have a different, some would argue,more connected perspective, and follow through with a truly unique collection. Yes, what she has is pretty but it certainly isn't breaking any new ground.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's disappointing. You'd hope someone as "inspirational" as Jane would've done something better than this. Like SKM said, she got a superb opportunity and she wasted it.


WendyB said...

Oh my. I don't know what to say. You know your shoes.

Meanwhile, Brangelina is getting into the fine jewelry business....sigh.

jane* said...

Lets keep in mind that I was designing for URBAN OUTFITTERS and was very constricted by what THEY deemed appropriate for their customer.

jennine said...

i just can't believe that someone who loves shoes so much wouldn't be able to think of shoes they would like to wear that dont exist yet. i am mildly into shoes and i can think of three pairs i want but haven't seen right off the top of my head. and this is coming from a girl who wears $5 shoes three times a week.

that said, i did look at the laced flats (and i didn't know they were JA's shoes...because i'm so out of the loop) and it did cross my mind to buy them. if i lived in california, yes, but winter's coming and i have other priorities.

Ellie Waller said...

You really do know your shoes, and that being said, I found this post very interesting and informative. Someone like Jane, who is a self-proclaimed lover of shoes should want to create something unique, new, and bring something different to the market rather than simply recreating something that already has a place in her closet.

Lara said...

I think this is a conversation that needs to be had and you've approached it quite diplomatically. I have had the exact same thoughts as you in regards to the styles and wondered what kind of influence UO had on her designs.

A while back, I saw a tweet from Jane addressing that the Chanel shoe accusation had already been brought up. She said that she had designed her version before the Chanels had come out... or something to that effect. Just saying that she has addressed this before and I just don't know how I feel about her response.

I don't think her shoes are outright ripoffs, but most definitely are inspired by the things that she loves. It would be difficult for anyone who has a love affair with shoes to not have their favorite designs and shapes filter into thier own ideas.

That being said, I would love to see more originality out there and that's impossible to achieve if you're tethered to such a now mainstream company as UO. I love classic shapes but wouldn't mind seeing more daring styles (a la Irregular Choice) out there... that are affordable.

She had an amazing opportunity and I don't think any of us would have turned that offer down. UO is definitely more to blame for catering to the masses. The masses need to start demanding more.

Excellent post! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I think what bothers me more than anything else is that we've never even seen her WEAR the shoes she so proudly displays on her webpage as her designs. Frankly, its insulting to people who might want to buy the shoes, and insulting to Urban Outfitters, who gave her the opportunity. If she felt she couldn't do anything worthwhile design wise, then she should have turned them down.

Furthermore, as far as what she said about her Chanel bow shoes not even being out when she designed them- BS. A version of those shoes was in Chanel's SS09 runway show, so even though they weren't in stores, they were "out" last september.

I don't really mean to be so excessively negative, it's just that I don't appreciate being taken for a fool.

Miss J. said...

I think this shoe line with UO was ridiculous. Jane doesn't wear and and of course, why would she, she has far more the far more fantastic (and original) ones in her closet.

I do think the fact that she does not wear them is a bit insulting for people who do buy them--sort of like "oh these are good enough for you but lolz not for me."

I haven't purchased any myself. I try to keep my shoe wardrobe mainly designer and these UO/Jane shoes are nothing special.

xo P.S. love your blog!

just call me keeks said...

billiantly all i need to say, she gets on my goat!

The Spicers said...

She's better than Lindsay Lohan for Ungaro!

Anonymous said...

Isn't it a bit redundant for her to wear her own designs if they're amalgamations of designer pairs that she already has in her closet? It could be a way of making the expensive designs more accessible.

The Mighty J said...

This is a tough cookie to crack - I know many things I like and wear would probably "inspire" me to design similiar things if I had to come up with designs. But at the same time you should also wear what you are "creating" right? Like J-Ho - does she wear any of her "own designs"? I doubt it. And I wish ppl would stop doing that.

Mary P. said...

Like Lara said, it is a topic that should be thought about and discussed. And I agree, you approach it rather well.

I have mixed emotions. but the one part of me is jaded and beat-down and gives up in a shrug and says, 'I give up. what can you do? People want fashion - now - and also value "affordability" (because obviously, we don't all have resources to buy loads of expensive shoes but who doesn't like owning loads of cute shoes? yes, I am a consumer too.) UO is just like other big retail company ...capitalism... the bottom line... ruthless fashion industry... undercutting... blah blah blah ... and there's no stopping them. But maybe I just got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.

Alicia said...

I think the motive for UO was getting a fashionable and accessible(?) person's name attached to a product. I don't see much design work in her pieces as much as I see collaging, but her followers probably make up a large part of UO's target customer base. If they know her name, they will buy the shoes. The design aspect of it all is largely irrelevant from UO's standpoint.

TheShoeGirl said...

WELL... as someone who earns a living by making shoes under other people's names I must say that it can be very challenging. Some times, for certain labels, you can only do so much.
My runway collection for a certain someone was ridiculous and I kind of hate it but it was my job to do it... I dunno, just throwing that out there.

That said- putting your own name on something should be something you are proud of and you have ultimate control over. Otherwise, don't put your name on it.

Great post by the way!

Nyglam said...

Hey all..

just have to say that I for one dont mind if a designer shoes is imitated and sold for a lesser price. I for one cant afford to give 2,000 dollars for a designer shoes...If you guys are willing to give all that money on a shoe that youll probably wear once or twice hey by all means do what u please...whats the deal with us people that are conscientous of how we spend our money getting a shoe that is equally as nice as any designer shoe out there....

G. said...

The first thing I want to say is that's she 17. I think there are very few of us, who at 17, would have had the balls to stand up to a bunch of UO designers and execs and say "THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO DESIGN STFU." She signed a contract, and UO controls the finished product in the end. She did get a supreme opportunity, but I feel like there was only so much she could do. I'm angry at UO for doing this, not Jane. I don't think your post was that insulting, but seeing some of these comments? UGH. Grow up people.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's happened -- we've all been wondering how corporate entities would exploit the phenomenon of blogging's popularity -- here they come

J said...

1. the shoes look like knock-offs. 2. UO is already marking them down to get rid of them. 3. I will not be following any 17 year-old's style trends. The fact that she is not likely to be mature enought to stand up for herself to a corporation means that's not a person I'd look up to. Is she spending her own money on the originals? I don't think so; therefore not likely to have any real concept of value or worth. 4. Where are they made? Are they cheaper because they're made in China?

Light Stealer said...

I think Jane is pretty much a genius style-wise, but the UO shoes that carry her name...urgh.

They look cheap (nothing wrong with a cheaper knock off, but a minimum quality should never be fogotten) and quite frankly the design itself is simply...ugly.

I think she took a risk with this collaboration, because what is a great opportunity (ending up in tons of stores nationwide) can also become a reason for your true fans to question your integrity.

Why would you wanna sell me orrible plastic shoes exploting the fact that I read your blog? That's the bottom line you come to, given that no one that is not into blogs would give a damn about seeing a JA for UO shoe on the shelter.