Fashion is powerful.
It’s influences transcend waters, continents, languages, ethnicities, etc. But at what point does fashion stop being influential and becomes stolen intellectual property?
The fashion world relies on trends that are inspired from runway shows in New York and Paris every season. Designers take their cues and incorporate design elements to create collections that are on trend yet still in keeping with their individual fashion expression. If that is true, then how can a bow on a skirt that Marc Jacobs presents in Paris ever be considered theft by another designer? It can’t be. Marc Jacobs didn’t invent the bow or the circle skirt it was placed on for that matter. However, he most certainly is responsible for the juxtaposition of the bow to the waistline, the choice of fabric used and the hemline to create a complete look, Then it becomes a Marc Jacobs original that is completely his own. That is a designer my friends.
It appears that designers like Marc Jacobs are a dying breed, struggling to compete with fast fashion. Cheap, quick and trendy items mass produced overseas are becoming the biggest competitive marketplace. They have such a strong hold because they are in most cases blatantly ripping off designs from prominent designers and mass producing them, using the pictures from said designers to appear as if they are selling the actual garment at a fraction of the price. It is happening at an alarming rate. Plus size brands are not excluded from this new craze. Take for instance the case of Monif C.
As early as 2006, Monif C. created the Marilyn Convertible dress, a simple circle skirt with 2-9 foot pieces of fabric that can be wrapped around your body in at least 22 ways. It began to be wildly popular and soon I saw many places selling the “infinity” dress, same exact design concept, less quality, at a fraction of the cost. Everyone knew from whence it came. It didn’t stop major plus retailers from hopping on board and selling their version. But, like a true designer Monif Clarke perfected her original concept, created even more options and continued to push the envelope. With each of her collections, every single season you are left gasping for more. Every now and again Monif may add Marilyn back to a new seasonal launch, just so you won’t forget how historically bad she is.
It’s a new age now…..
Alibaba Express and other sites based in Asian markets just simply take the images of the designs found on her website, cutting off the heads of the models and offering the original designs at a fraction of the cost, This approach is misleading and it makes the consumer believe that they are getting the item in the picture. What they get is a sad replica of poor quality and style. Unfortunately, people are starting not to care though. Those that have not heard of Monif C. are confused when they see her pictures on other sites, wondering if she is ripping other sites off or vice versa. No one cares about that either. In the name of fast fashion, they will purchase that fringe bathing suit for $10 to look hot at the pool party, who cares if it falls apart afterwards?
You should care, we all should care. Designer Rachel Stewart may be forced to close her jewelry business because an Asian company has mass produced all her items, therefore cutting her bottom line. It’s disgusting and sad.
What can designers do?
If you have the moolah you can take them to court for original design elements as was the case of Christian Louboutin VS. Yves St. Laurent. Louboutin who has held a patent for red soled shoes since the 90’s, kind of taking Lauarant to court in 2012. The result of that case was that anyone can have red soled shoes as long as it doesn’t contrast with the upper portion. In other words, red soles on a red suede shoe is ok, but purple shoes with red soles are not. Louboutin is currently fighting a case in Europe for the same reason.
An international court win could be a big win for designers like Monif C. and Rachel Stewart. Until then I want to encourage you to support your local designers. After all, we can’t beg designers to make beautiful plus size clothing and when they do leave them to fend for themselves. We need to honor their artistry and support them so they can continue to design and create clothes within the quality we deserve. If you don’t, then all we will have left is fast fashion and yearning for Monif C.