High-fashion knockoffs have always been popular; they provide you with a certain style without the often times exorbitant costs and they are not illegal. The truth is that most people confuse knockoffs with counterfeits and that is not the same thing. People do get into legal trouble for counterfeits as that is affecting trademarking.
Trademark law basically protects against what are defined as replicas, duplicates and fakes. These are all items that bear the logo or name of a company that was not produced by the company itself. There are plenty of reasons for this but a good way to think of would be regarding safety.
If someone was burned by a product under a specific company’s name, that company is liable for that product and whatever harmful effects the product can be proven to have had.
A trademark infringing duplicate will say Chanel. A knockoff Chanel will not say Chanel. It will be similar in appearance and under another brand name; that is how trademark law is avoided and a huge part of the success of knock-off brands and retail spaces.
So why aren’t high-fashion knockoffs illegal? The short answer is that high fashion, any fashion technically is seen as clothes and by law clothes are a necessity therefore they cannot be copyrighted. The initial response most people give is that fashion is art. They are not wrong, but being artistic with a utilitarian necessity does not make it less so.
As long as fashion can be defined as clothing, it will not be protected under artistic copyright laws. Other art is, but not fashion. The fashion industry has been trying to get this changed for years to no avail, and the truth is it boils down to one thing for fashion – how can fashion creatives protect their work and value if they are not protected by copyright? The answer used to be shame.
Shame kept fashion knockoffs from being a highly publicized thing; no one wanted to be caught wearing a knockoff Gucci after all. It meant that your attempt to keep up with the Joneses was pathetic and you were disregarded from the circles you so wanted to be in which is set up to by wealth and class. Due to this, people did not want to necessarily be seen with knock-offs regardless of their much less expensive nature.
It is always better to have the real thing, but times change in increments, and I believe that high fashion, like most things set up for the wealthy and extremely wealthy does not consider the power of those outside their spheres. This is a generational problem as well. To many of an older generation of people, the question is – if people know they are high-fashion knockoffs, why are they popular?
The younger generations lovingly and hatefully referred to as millennials, have made it clear that they are done with the idea of wealth just to show it, but rather an acceptance that the wealthy percentage does not change. Everyone will not be incredibly wealthy, and they are looking for the affordable for themselves while still presenting and appearing the way they want.
They are relearning the value of the dollar and the evidence is everywhere around us. Not everyone can afford the high fashion items they like, but if a few changes are acceptable to them, the product is still durable, and their fashion footing is firm, people do not really mind saying they are sporting a knock-off. In some circles it is a source of pride. “I paid all my monthly bills and got this great bag!”
That is not to be sneered at. People are no longer looking to keep up with the Joneses, but rather set the best chances going forward for themselves and why would a statement like that not be respected?
For many people a luxury item is just that – a luxury. Something you save up for as a gift to yourself, for example, something you can show you are proud of getting. That does not typically lead to a closet full of beautiful high fashion items and it can lead to buyer’s remorse in a lot of cases.
There is also the wearability aspect. The wealthy 1% do not have the same types of jobs as the rest of the world. Everyone else needs function to exist harmoniously with fashion. It isn’t just a personal choice either, to get a good job you have to look a certain way, present yourself a certain way.
Companies spend trillions of dollars to make certain their work force is outfitted in a uniform when required that represents the company is an effective yet functional manner. People need to be able to do their jobs in the clothes they work in and many people spend more hours at work each week than not.
This is more evident than anything else when considering how the news gets out regarding the quickness that these fashion knockoffs gain popularity – social media. Certain fashion bloggers with enough reach get offered collaborations with some of these ‘fast fashion’ and ‘knockoff boutiques’. Reach is decided by the number of followers a blogger has, and the more followers, the bigger and faster the news will spread.
The funny thing is that even with the reach they have and the social media status they have obtained to be a part of many of these programs, many of these bloggers could not afford the runway looks themselves anyway. They are not a part of the 1% either, or even the 10% so they get free fashion to promote, they get paid and they help others who were also entry level and hourly employees somewhere. Many of the current style icons are not just starlets anymore.
It boils down to this – high fashion is for people who can afford it but it is the standard people are taught to want to follow. This makes high fashion the starting point and brings up the infamous monologue of Miranda Priestly regarding Andrea’s sweater and derisive snort regarding the difference in the turquoise belts.
High-fashion knockoffs are just the next step after the runway, and an infuriating one for designers. Imitation being the best and sincerest form of flattery is still insulting when the creator does not benefit from it. Effective marketing of knockoff boutiques does not take much, it is simple.
People can be fashionable in their own lives, feel good about the way that they look, without ending up destitute with nothing to fall back on which brings up the final question: should high-fashion knock-offs be considered illegal?
It seems, as infuriating for some as it is, that the life cycle of style will always include knockoffs. With designers learning to make their ready-to-wear lines practical and more affordable they are eliminating the need for most knockoffs, though with the costs still out of range for many consumers they maintain a level of exclusivity to protect their brands.
After a ton of debating and arguing and lobbying, high-fashion knock-offs are still not illegal, and many designers are making a more affordable ready-to-wear line.
Photos courtesy of @styleheroine, Vogue
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