Luxury Goods and Copycats
Have you ever heard the term fast fashion? It's where designs seen on the catwalk end up in stores weeks later - at a fraction of the price. The goal of Fast-Fashion is to provide high fashion at a low price.
So, a £3,000 Gucci design can be imitated and sold for £40. High-street sellers notorious for this include Primark, Forever 21, ASOS and H&M. How they achieve this is by reproducing a valuable item and turning it into something which is both cost-efficient and responsive to consumer demands.
New Trends, New Challenges
New trends are set at fashion week and this increases the desire for consumers to own these items which presents a perfect market for a fast-fashion retailer.
As explained in our article Fashion Week Guide, we explained that designers will model designs destined for stores 6 months later. This delay provides ample time for imitators and counterfeiters to strike and launch their own 'versions'.
This leaves fashion designers powerless as their designs are not protected by copyright. Why? The item in question has a function (to be worn, keeps the body warm etc). This is different from an artwork, movie or piece of media.
Have you ever wondered what the difference is between an imitated item and a counterfeit item?
What's the Difference Between Imitation and Counterfeit?
There is a fine line between imitation and counterfeit.
A counterfeit is an exact replica of something original. You can find them in fake markets all over the world and popular targets are luxury brands from Rolex all the way to Louis Vuitton.
The size of the counterfeit market is massive. The EUIPO (European Intellectual Property Office) quoted the size of the market to be around 2.5% of global trade (€338bn).
Imitation is where a design is copied but at least one vital element is changed which explains how stores are not counterfeiting goods. Designers can just about tolerate imitation but a counterfeit is out of the question.
What can a designer do to protect their design?
How Can Designs Be Protected?
There are ways to protect your design but it's arduous and expensive.
- Patents can take up to two years.
- Design trademarks may not be recognised by all jurisdictions.
By the time you find your design imitated by another company and proceed with launching a copyright case, the imitated design is already available to the masses and with a seemingly low shelf life, the damage has been done.
This fact can render designers powerless, especially young or new ones who may not have the means, reputation or client base to challenge bigger companies.
How Are Designers Fighting Back?
Designers have started offering customers the chance to purchase designers after their show. Sometimes, they change their signature designs to foil imitation completely. Take a look at how the LV canvas has changed over time.
The Evolution of the LV Canvas
Louis Vuitton's canvases are some of the most recognised in the world. It all started with the Trianon Canvas before the threat of imitation caused numerous re-designs.
Trianon Canvas (1858) - This canvas adorned their very first product, the Trianon Trunk.
Rayée Canvas (1876) - Imitation was causing problems so Vuitton re-designed it by using a colourway of striped brown and beige.
Daimler canvas (1888) - Victims of their success, Vuitton created The Daimler canvas. It consisted of a light and dark brown chequered pattern.
LV Monogram (1896) - Comprised of a brown colourway adorned with a graphic flower, quatrefoil and the initials of LV interlocked.
The Cost of Imitation/The Fightback
Because almost-identical copies pop up on the high street so quickly, it dilutes the value of luxury brands and the desire for their designs. Essentially, the luxury consumers who start trends upon the release of the original design would have seen the outfits become available to the masses.
The question that prompts the customer buying an original is why pay thousands for something when you see thousands of people wearing it?
Some designers are combating imitators by using fabrics which are so technical that it cannot be produced at a low cost. The goal is to ensure that imitators cannot copy the level of craftsmanship and authenticity.
For the majority of the article, you've heard how much imitation and counterfeit goods damage numerous industries. However, could they be a good thing? It's no secret that the shelf life of a luxury good is barely a season and this means designers need to innovate.
This concept is called the Piracy Paradox which argues that copying is the engine of industries such as fashion.
Imitators will create a trend, see it expire and then leave the consumer wanting something new. This cycle presents a need to constantly innovate which helps to turn the wheels of creativity. Of course, this mindset is controversial but it's here to show the other side of the argument. This is not the question though.
What can be done to plug the hole left by counterfeit and imitated goods? We all play a part in this from the customer right up to the lawmakers.
What are your thoughts on this issue? Hit the share button and let us know!
NOTE: William George & Co. has stringent authentification measures for vendors who consign goods to auction.
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