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Fashion, Inspired or a Knock off?

Something Borrowed?

‘When is something borrowed, inspired or simply a knock off? Copyright in the fashion industry is a heated and controversial topic. Since “clothes” are considered to be utilitarian they generally don’t qualify for copyright protection. (Just to clarify, I did not classify clothes as utilitarian, personally I believe that there is more to them than mere function.) When an industry that combines both art and commerce innovates who owns and defines innovation? It’s a much debated point…just look at the recent legal battle between Louboutin and YSL over the rights of ownership of red soled shoes (‘- Olya Bell.

‘Back in our teens years, ripping off the designs of international brands was a common place practice by many Australian labels. The Australian fashion industry has developed significantly since, back then lead times were long and virtually the only way you could purchase up to the minute fashion was to travel overseas. These days Australian fashion labels export their own innovative ideas, the brands we used to travel for are located on our own shores and international online shopping has meant that the rules of the game have changed forever’ – Hannah Brooks.

In our research on the topic we stumbled across the following video .

‘I was somewhat conflicted after watching the video by Johanna Blakley that discusses the legality of copying and creativity in the fashion industry. I clearly remember the legal battle of 2007 between Chloe and Topshop over a yellow dungaree in the UK that was pulled off shelves and for which Topshop paid compensation to Chloe. In 2009 ‘Supergroup – which owns Superdry, a casual-wear brand specialising in hoodies and streetwear – received a settlement in May from Primark over the alleged copying of one of its leather jackets, which has been worn by footballer David Beckham. The marketing and branding strategy of fashion houses varies dramatically on this issue. Some fiercely protect their brand by launching legal battles whereas other believe that they simply appeal to a different customer. It’s interesting to note that ‘the number of high-street shops bringing legal action against their rivals for copying their designs has risen four-fold since the start of the recession, according to top copyright infringement lawyers’ in the UK’ (The Independent). The question I pose is if it is legal to copy in the fashion industry then why do I keep reading about legal settlements and copyright cases? Someone “please explain….” – Olya Bell .

In the interests of balance…here is an opposing view:

Much of this debate on this issue centers around fast-fashion labels like Zara and H&M quickly copying the designs of luxury labels, but when we consider the following the following…all these campaigns/designs shown below were released by luxury labels for SS 2012. It’s hard to imagine that there were “fashion spies’ lurking in the design rooms of these key fashion houses while these ranges were in development.

Lace Dresses Spring /Summer 2012 : Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Oscar de la Renta and Valentino.

‘Lace, lace, and more lace… (and I am not talking about the novel). If someone had the patent on ‘lace’ how would that work? ‘- Olya Bell

‘Here’s the issue…what’s the difference between intellectual property and merely following a “global trend”. Fashion houses have a history of borrowing ideas from other eras, so what constitutes a trulyoriginal design that can be protected under the law. Furthermore, in the digital economy whose job is it to police this practice…the UN Fashion Police ? That’s a peacekeeping mission I would sign up for!’ – Hannah Brooks

100% copy or simply inspired by…where do you draw the line in your fashion purchases?

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