Plagiarism – coming soon to a favourite designer near you

Copyright definition

Copyright definition

With each new season comes new collections from designers around the world. People with their eye on style and trends eagerly anticipate the latest from clothing, accessory, furniture and homewares designers. We delight in their inspiration, creativity, inventiveness and new angle on what would otherwise be the everyday.

Unfortunately each new season also brings cheap rip-offs, shoddy copies and plagiarism. This is not a new phenomenon. I’m sure we all remember times when a trip to Bali wasn’t complete without a suitcase full of ‘Chanel’ tees, ‘Rolex’ watches and ‘Louis Vuitton’ handbags.

Decades ago there was a full season lag between original designs hitting the stores and fakes turning up in big markets or from street vendors. Now with faster communication and manufacturing technologies, a person can snap some pictures of new clothing collections at a trade show, have those same designs virtually copied and manufactured in a country where labour is cheap and on the shelves in Australian stores even before the designer originals launch. Furthermore, designer copies are no longer the domain of markets and street vendors – they are creeping up the market chain to middle and higher-range chain stores and shops.

It’s pretty common for designers to ask us not to post images of new products we see at tradeshows and launches because they are so worried about their work being copied.  One independent designer we spoke to recently had to withdraw a product from the market after it was copied by a chain store and sold for half the price.

User-generated blog You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice is working hard to expose rip-offs from all areas of design, from fashion to movie posters.  It’s astonishing what companies get away with.

The counter argument to this is that while plagiarism harms the individual designers, it helps the industry as a whole by continually creating new demand, as copied items become less desirable. Eric Morris wrote about this recently in the Freakonomics blog in the NY Times.  It’s still no comfort to the designer being copied.

Ultimately the age old adage, ‘You get what you pay for’ rings true. If you value a designer for their creativity, quality and style then support them – and leave the ‘cheap and nasties’ where they belong, in the bargain bin.

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