Imitation In Fashion is a Huge Problem, But It’s Probably Not Going Anywhere

Last month, fashion industry watchdogs Diet Prada spotted something in a model’s Instagram video of fast-fashion brand Fashion Nova’s plans for a new dress called the “Winning Beauty Cut-Out Gown”. In the video, an image with the filename “Kim” was used to describe the dress. The issue? The video was labeled “February 14,” and Kim Kardashian wore a similar style dress by fashion brand, Mugler on February 18. Fashion Nova has made no secret of its quick and cheap dupes of the Kardashian and Jenner’s outfit in the past, even once recreating all the looks the sisters wore to Kylie’s birthday party. But some felt that this one was proof that the brand was being tipped off to what they’d wear beforehand, so Fashion Nova could imitate the designs and make them immediately available.

The brand has denied working with Kim telling Teen Vogue in a statement, “Fashion Nova is an ultra-fast fashion brand that is capable of executing design within hours and believes in fairness in pricing. We strive to offer our customers affordable leading trends. We respect the fashion community and work with a variety of vendors, designers, influencers and celebrities to keep our style offering fresh and relevant. Kim Kardashian West is one of the top fashion icons in the world that our customers draw inspiration from. However, we have not worked with Kim Kardashian West directly on any of her projects but have been driven by her influential style.”

Following the reaction to Diet Prada’s post, Kim called out fast-fashion brands and copycats out on Twitter. “It’s devastating to see these fashion companies rip off designs that have taken the blood, sweat, and tears of true designers who have put their all into their own original ideas,” she said in a tweet. She went on to talk about how copycats have imitated her husband Kanye West’s Yeezy line in the past.

But the law is not cut and dry. Not only are lawsuits expensive and difficult for small brands to undertake, but the larger issue is that many shoppers don’t seem to care about where they buy their clothing. In other words, the reason this keeps happening is because consumers keep buying, and the bad press isn’t outweighing the potential profits.

This issue doesn’t just impact big designers, but smaller ones as well. Over the past few years, there have been many accusations, lawsuits, and settlements between indie designers and fast fashion conglomerates over alleged copyright infringements. In 2016, designer Tuesday Bassen accused Zara of copying her pin designs, and the brand responded saying they took the claim seriously and would be investigating. In 2017, Forever21 was accused of copying a t-shirt design from Planned Parenthood. The company said the shirt came from a third-party source, and they removed the item as soon as they were made aware of it. The list of these situations goes on and on.

So how do we address such a large issue that doesn’t show any signs of stopping? Fashion Law founder and copyright expert Julie Zerbo spoke with Teen Vogue about what, if anything, we can do about fashion copycats and what the future looks like for handling issues like this.
Teen Vogue: If brands continue to get away with blatant copies are there any larger legal implications?Julie Zerbo: Not necessarily. I think the fact that brands continue to get away with copying is more than anything a reflection of how much (or better yet, how little) protection is generally available for garment designs in the U.S. due to loopholes in the law, so to speak.

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