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this week i am thinking, as i often do, about influence vs. appropriation. an emerging designer whom i adore recently posted a set of comparison photos of her own designs versus those on sale at a fast fashion retailer and voiced her frustration as a new designer over knockoffs of her designs. the post was quickly deleted, so i won’t name names, but i felt it none-the-less. big fast fashion chains like forever 21, zara and h&m have been churning out designer lookalikes for years, but in recent months it seems that the knockoffs have become a little less obvious, with at least minor changes to the original design. at the same time a whole new crop of fast fashion shops have popped up, ones that seem to be devoted to producing near identical versions of pieces by emerging or indie designers. the price point is nowhere near as low as the big fasties, but drastically lower than the indie designers that they are copying. these shops are like fast fashion for grown ups, replacing $10 skinny jeans with $80 raw hem vetements knockoffs.

that being said, i also see designers re-making vintage styles from other houses, or creating pieces that look very similar to their contemporaries and i often wonder how different this really is. fashion most definitely revolves around re-invention of that which came before, and there are no copyright laws that apply to clothing. i wonder why it is that when we see a new piece of clothing that clearly references, say, yves saint laurent circa 1970, we are excited to make the connection and call the new designer smart for making that reference, yet when a designer puts out a piece that clearly resembles one of their contemporaries, we call this stealing. is there simply a waiting period, a certain amount of years that must pass before something crosses the line from imitation to tribute? and what about common threads or trends in a fashion season? is it co-incidence that several houses will put out similar items in one season? or are there secretly little fashion spies that leak secrets out to the other designers? or is there some great muse or subconscious creative collective pool that designers tap into each season which leaves them all shocked and delighted when they see each others similar collections?

the difference with designers referencing or even riffing off of one another is that the design is usually changed at least slightly and re-interpreted, imagined through another designer’s lens. for the most part there is a sense of camaraderie or healthy competition between designers. but what do these fast fashion shops say about the designer whom they are knocking off, that their idea is good, but not at the price they are asking? fast fashion knockoffs call into question the worth of designer’s ideas. fast fashion literally cheapens designers. it is, in fact, stealing because the average shopper doesn’t think about where the design or idea for the garment came from, it is about instant gratification. the piece becomes faceless and nameless, and the creativity that gave birth to the design gets all but erased when it is re-constructed in a sweatshop. personally i want to touch the magic, i want the energy and excitement and dreaming and the craft that goes into a designer piece. but i digress.

below are some current examples of influence and appropriation and how those seem to overlap.

  1. first up is the lovely cotton poplin wrap top by johanna ortiz which seems to have taken over the world. the perfect marriage of ruffles and blue striped shirting and off the shoulder gave birth to this top, and it has been knocked off more times than one can count.
  2. but if you are keeping count, here are a few of the knock offs: the storets version ($68), the stylemafia version ($75), and the pixie market version ($52).
  3. meanwhile over at rosie assoulin was this similar ruffle off the shoulder blouse. it seemed that johanna ortiz, rosie assoulin, and j.w. anderson were all surfing the same wave, all offering up similar but differently brilliant ruffles in stripes & ginghams.
  4. marni gave us these ultra fabulous color block sandals with contrast red block heel.
  5. which were knocked off by loeil.
  6. over at jacquemus these amazing contrast red & white block heels happened.
  7. i’m seeing the rainbow sarah battaglia ferragamo bags everywhere lately and this bag sort of sums it up: it was inspired by the famed ferragamo rainbow shoe of 1938.
  8. of course the rainbow bag has been done, most recently by valentino last year.
  9. when jesse kamm came out with her sailor pant i was smitten, but i knew why. i always smile when i see quotes saying that kamm has been “doing it since 2005” because her pants are an exact match to navy uniform pants that sailors wore during world war II. last year kamm put out the pants in an iron oxide red, and this summer caron callahan put out her very similar stewart pant in a crimson red.
  10. it’s been a couple of years since chloe came out with this adorable color block toe pump. over at maryam nassir zadeh are these toe cap maryam pumps.
  11. speaking of maryam nassir zadeh, these yves wedges are clearly a nod to vintage ysl wedges.
  12. isabel marant did a lovely crinkly leather, pointed toe red boot for pre-fall 2016 that made me fully swoon, for $1255. zara was quick to jump on it and put out this similar pair for $279.

the end.



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