Copying Creativity: The Latest Case of Plagiarism in Fashion

Copying Creativity: The Latest Case of Plagiarism in Fashion

It’s daunting trying to make a name for yourself in an already over-saturated industry. Countless individuals give up, the pressure of competing and remaining original in a sea of rivals just too much to bear. However, there are always so many strong creatives, working hard at their craft and producing art, fashion, writing, endless types of incredible content that fill our lives with new designs and ideas.

What is scarier than all the competition, than all the possibilities of failure, has now become the risk of being plagiarised. Increasingly, it seems putting work out into the world comes with an almost guaranteed attempt from an outside source at copying your idea and branding it as their own. It’s the age-old “copy my homework, but change it up a bit” lesson you learn in primary school: copying is a classroom crime, a social no-no…however, it’s a problem much more easily fixed when the only authority is the teacher. In the adult world of business, it often involves an established, powerful company who can use their money and influence to swing the argument in their favour.

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Fashion has been built on the concept of copying; that’s how trends spread – but it’s more of a subtle ‘taking inspiration from’, rather than outright ripping off of another label. Nowadays, though, it seems larger brands and companies have no shame when it comes to blatantly using the work of others without paying or crediting them; knowing their status and wealth will fight off any comeuppance.

We’ve seen Zara called out for allegedly copying artist Tuesday Bassen’s designs, KTZ put under the spotlight for directly recreating an Inuit jumper design, and Viktor and Rolf hounded after being accused of stealing ideas for their AW17 show from design graduate Terrence Zhou. Now, the microscope is pointed at Forever21, after the Sami Miro collection was noted to be almost identical to British graduate Betsy Johnson’s label, Freckled Ace.

Johnson became aware of the situation after fans began contacting her on Instagram, sharing photos of the collection and claiming it was a rip-off. “I was on holiday and began receiving messages from my followers showing screenshots of Sami Miro’s Forever 21 collaboration collection, all of them passionately supporting me and insisting it was a rip-off, however they were completely unaware myself and Sami were in contact already.” Johnson explains. Sending pieces to Miro from Freckled Ace in June, she was surprised at the lack of thank you posts over social media but didn’t think anything of it until Miro’s collection came out.

Over the following week, fans of Johnson’s work helped her raise awareness of the situation, using the hashtag #boycottforever21. Despite this campaign gaining real traction, there has still been a real lack of response to the issue from both Forever 21 and Miro herself. Johnson contacted both repeatedly, telling us “Sami blocked me on all 3 of my accounts, also blocking supporters of the issue…she unblocked briefly to send a message claiming the designs were not copied, but since then has not responded any more.” Forever 21 failed to respond until a week after the issue began, and simply claimed it was a problem Johnson needed to fix with Miro and not them.

The lack of responsibility Forever 21 are showing for this case of alleged copying is quite frankly scary – it shows a lack of care not only for upholding their own name, but also a disregard for the work of a young artist who has potentially been exploited. Whether Miro did intentionally copy the designs or not, the facts stand and it is impossible to ignore the similarities between her work and Johnson’s designs for Freckled Ace. What has become evident here is it lies at the hands of the consumer to tackle this issue. If demands from the designer and media coverage isn’t enough to deter companies and individuals from plagiarising work, perhaps making their products every opposite of a success will. It’s hard not to wonder: if copied work is impossible to sell, and impacts capital, perhaps big corporations will start to learn their lesson.


Written by Ellie Connor-Phillips

Fashion Assistant

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