Stolen Shop: Why We Need to Credit Young Designers

Stolen Shop: Why We Need to Credit Young Designers

Ask anyone in the fashion industry and initially, at least, the thought of a knock-off is completely abhorrent. Many companies are continuously criticised for creating almost identical versions of high end products. However, the designers impacted the most in this copycat world are those just entering the industry. They are impacted on all levels, from high street to high fashion.

The struggle that young graduate designers go through to have their clothing and brands recognised is undeniable. We all know the financial and emotional struggles to become known in an industry already saturated with ideas.

High street beloved Zara has come under much criticism for continuously appearing to rip off young creatives’ work. In 2016, Zara appeared to have made almost identical designs to those of Tuesday Bassen, an independent artist based in LA. The designer was continuously in battles with Zara, with the company claiming Bassen had no basis for her claims, stating that her designs were not “distinctive enough” despite the almost identical pieces. Bassen responded by filing a lawsuit and posting over social media and her website to claim what was legally hers.

Things haven’t progressed much recently. Just earlier this month, Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele denied that he had plagiarised the ideas of Central Saint Martins womenswear student Pierre-Louis Auvray. Auvray called on @gucci to at least acknowledge the inspiration behind their new campaign as the creative direction behind the alien-inspired imagery is almost interchangeable. Central Saint Martin’s students showed their support for Auvray via the @bafcsm Instagram feed, which is managed by students at the famed fashion school.

A lot of individuals will ask: why didn’t they just copyright the design? You see, clothing is considered a utilitarian item, not artistic expression or scientific invention, and therefore it is not copyrightable. Designers are able to register copyrights for original prints and patterns and also protect any conceptual elements of a design that can stand away from the functionality of clothing. However, all this means is that if a company changes a small aesthetic detail, then the clothing is no longer the same and therefore doesn’t breach the copyright of the original designer. Similarly with trademarking; this only applies to logos and branding. The whole situation just seems completely one-sided as the odds are stacked against new up and coming designers when their work is stolen.  

Most recently, a coat designed by Central Saint Martins graduate Ruth Elizabeth, was almost duplicated by Urban Outfitters. The public outrage was evident within the comments on Ruth Elizabeth’s Facebook post. However, even though the injustice is obvious, as the designs were so clearly similar, a young designer like Ruth Elizabeth is unlikely to gain any monetary value from the use of the design.

Unfortunately, the large brands have too much control. Most consumers don’t understand the value of the love and labour that has gone into the creation of these designs. They’re just happy that they’ve got the product.

As millennials searching for truth and honesty and wanting to change some archaic corners of the industry, we need to help change this unjust system by making sure that creatives receive their due credit. Or mostly importantly, put our money where our minds are and support those who are being innovative, not thieving.


Written by Roisin O’Hare

Editorial Assistant

Tuesday BassenPierre-Luis AuvrayRuth Elizabeth