Inspired or copied?

I´m re-posting this from last January. My blog has recieved many new readers in the past months and I want to be sure you know how I feel about this "copying vs. being inspired" issue and why I write my blog the way I do.

Things can always be said in two ways, the positive and negative (in my mind truth is relative). If you make a dress similar to your favorite high fashion designer´s is it "inspired" or "copied"? Counterfeit Chic has spent a good time pondering on this issue which lead me to also write about my own feelings and thoghts on this subject. I remember back in fashion college I did do a lot of conscious copying and got loads of shit from the teachers for it (at least I was always honest about it!). At the time I just felt that since this school was about pattern making and sewing and not about design, the source of my design was not important. I once also designed and sewd a B&W little coctail dress that got very good praisals of the teachers. A few months later I saw a very similar design in a magazine by YSL.. It was a total surprise to me. Apparently I do also take in influences subonsciously. I felt so stupid... Thank God nobody noticed!

Today, ten years later I feel that if a professional designer (with proper education in design) working for a fashion label or house does this I don´t think it is exeptable. They should be able to do better with all the tools they have! Like in this Project Runway copy-incident (see links below) It´s just embarrassing because one will always get cought when the judges are fashion professionals. Besides the whole point of Project Runway is to discover new and original talent... DUH!

Apparently copying designs is very common in fashion. When I was doing my college trainee period for a small Finnish fashion label I was very surprised to see how systematic the copying from major labels was. The house designer simply cut up images from collection books, drew the scetch and wrote measurements on a piece of paper, stapple on some color or fabric samples and sent it to the manufacturer for production! And it was considered "business as usual" in 97´. When I asked about this from the designer, she said that she´d love to do her own stuff but the customers/buyers want more designer-copies because it is what the consumers want.. And the customer is always right? At the end this is a matter of personal morals and good taste. It is a very gray area. What to do? Avoid buying factorymade designer copies.

When it comes to indie crafting and DIY fashions, I´m all for copying designs from major fashion houses. In fact I encurage it! If the item is something you make only for yourself or just a few handmade pieces for sale, I call it being "inspired" and see no harm in it. A homecrafter has complitely different techniques and workmethods to the fashion industry. Especially if you´re using recycled materials it´s a complitely different ball park. I´m sure the fashion houses will not mind a few DIY fashion people making similar projects at home. In fact many major designers are inspired themselves by streetlooks (outfit fashion blogs) and DIY culture!

When I first saw the zipper neckpieces made by Comme des Garçons in their SS2005 collection, it took me years to figure out how the zipper necklaces are done. And eventually when I was able to establish a technique, I´m sure it is very different from the original because I´ve only had pictures as references. In the name on good mannors I don´t take full credit for the design but as I have made more and more necklaces, I also noticed that I have developed my own designstyle on them. And it will propably still change as I do more. An artists works always evolve as the time goes on. Maybe in a few years they will be so different that you could not see the connection anymore.

But what about copying from other crafters? In general I would not recommed it unless the artist has given you permission to do so or made a tutorial about the project as I have. Artists are usually very protective about their works and copying it just feels sad because the design is something personal to them. If you consider copying from anothers, it might be a good idea to contact the original artist first to ask permission (many are very nice people that just feel flattered about it :D) or at least credit and link the original work. This way others see where you got the idea and the orignal artists work is recognised. My work is meant to inspire, so copy away. I do appreciate the links! :D

More on this subject see these articles on Counterfeit Chic: Project Runway: Copy Cut and Project Runway: Birds of a Feather. And of course I´d love to hear what you think about on this issue!!

Outi Les Pyy

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  1. I think copying in any artistic or creative effort is an issue of personal integrity and self-consciousness: when there is a limited number of building blocks, some buildings are bound to resemble one another. If the resemblance is through conscious effort, or an unconscious one caught only when the thing is done, it's a sign of personal maturity, integrity and well-roundedness in your chosen creative field to own up to it.

    If you are taking in inspiration from someone, and choosing not to disclose, then you should realize there might be consequences: whether it is a loss of respect or something else, someone will always notice, if you've made yourself worthy of noticing in the first place.

  2. Erittäin mielenkiintoinen aihe, kiitos tästä kirjoituksesta!

    Henk.koht. olen itse tullut hiukan allergiselle kopiointi-kammoa kohtaan. Varsinkin nuorempana sai kuulla mitä kummalisempia syytöksiä siitä miten on muka matkinut jotakuta toista, vaikka oma idea olisi syntynyt jo paljon ennen kuin oli toisen tyypin työtä nähnytkään. Ja minultakin on kysytty lupaa joskus mitä kummallisimpiin asioihin, kun ollaan pelätty kopiointi-syytöksiä. Pelottaa mitä uskaltaa itsekään enää tehdä ja miten ajatuksista ja ideoista voikaan todistaa niiden olevan ihan omia :/

    Toisaalta ymmärrän senkin, että joku haluaa suojella itselleen henkilökohtaisia ja varmaankin kovan työn takana olleita tuotoksia.

    Minusta niin pitkään, kun ihmiset kykenisivät rehellisesti myöntämään sen mistä on vaikutteensa napannut ja antamaan krediitin sille, jolta on kopioinut (ja toki luvan kysyminenkin olisi pop...) voisi kuvitella asioiden sujuvan ihan hyvin.


  3. I really would not worry about crafters and DIY'ers being inspired about professional designers works and making their own versions of them. For me it´s like going to an art exibit and seeing a painting you like. "I´ll paint something similar". Of course it will be quite different for the original even though others might recognize the original work and who made it..

  4. Kannattaa lukea Imogen Edward-Jonesin ja anonyymin Fashion Babylon. Vaikka kirja on osin fiktiivinen, se perustuu oikeiden muotitalojen touhuihin. Siinä kerrotaan seikkaperäisesti tästä "inspiroitumisesta"; miten kopiodaan toisia ja jopa lähetetään catwalkille valmisvaatteita omina tuotoksina. Myös vintage-vaatteita esitellään omina tai niiden mallin perusteella tehdään täysin samanlaisia kolttuja, erona ehkä helman pituus tai kuosi. Suosittelen kaikille muoti-fanaatikoille.

  5. those are so blatant. I think it is one thing to be inspired by someone else work (I am a song write it's the same idea). But being inspired and completely ripping off some one are two VERY different things :)