Text: Anastasia Poletaeva, Feature Editor The Blueprint
“Favorite designer Sobchak copied the collection an unknown British fashion designer ", - with this headline a few days ago, an article was published about the Alexander Terekhov spring-summer 2017 show. It was about a short shiny dress with one open shoulder, which exactly repeated the Ashish spring-summer 2013 model. favorite designer Sobchak”is Alexander Terekhov, and“unknown British fashion designer”is Ashish Gupta, founder of the Ashish brand, whose recognizable sequins are worn by Madonna, Miley Cyrus and Victoria Beckham.
This article wasn't the only post dedicated to this, well, coincidence. But she perfectly illustrated how difficult it is to comprehend plagiarism in 2016, when "everything has already been invented by someone before us." It's not even that someone stole the dress - this fact, of course, will not change either the fashion world or the lives of those who are not indifferent to it. It is much more interesting that it is impossible to find a clear simple answer to a simple question: where is the line between outright theft, secondary and postmodern quotation? And if stealing ideas is definitely not good, then why does it happen with unenviable regularity?
Apple is endlessly suing Samsung, Christian Louboutin continues to sue designers who painted the soles red, and politicians steal campaign speeches from each other. You cannot put an idea in a safe, so it is easy to steal it, and it is difficult to prove the fact of theft. And even more so there is no such hell where special boilers are prepared for fashionable plagiarists. For example, a couple of years ago, Roberto Cavalli emotionally accused Michael Kors of plagiarism: he was not talking about a dress or shoes, but about the very essence of the Michael Kors brand, built on secondary ideas.
And this is so: from season to season, Kors shows a cocktail of well-edited, but still ready-made ideas. But the morality committee did not appear in Michael Kors, and the brand's bags did not collapse in the tops of sales. Because a brand is not only an original artistic vision. These are well-established relations with the press and ambassadors, these are well-established trade networks, production and supply systems, this is sales, direct work with the consumer. As strange as it may sound, the lack of uniqueness can be quite an official brand base - especially if you remember the catch phrase about “talented stealing”.
You cannot put an idea in a safe, so it is easy to steal it, and it is difficult to prove the fact of theft
As a result, it turns out that it is possible for someone to steal, but not in any way for someone. And here we are stepping on the shaky ground of reputation. The mechanisms of production, sales and promotion of democratic and luxury brands differ markedly. In particular, mass-market customers are more likely to buy “just clothes,” and a person who wants to invest in expensive things buys not only a dress, but status, lifestyle, service and outstanding design in the end. This is rather boring, even superfluous information for a consumer who perceives clothes as functional. This is the difference between clothes and fashion: the latter has never been a story about “just dresses”. In the middle of the 20th century, designers like Christian Dior kicked out people who tried to sketch things from the new collection in their notebooks.
Then brands for terrible money sold to large department stores the right to replicate certain models. Both Christian Dior customers and department store customers paid for more than just new clothes. They paid for clothes “from Dior” (or “almost from Dior”), because his idea of femininity was then the most fashionable, which means that they automatically became the most fashionable. Since then, nothing has changed much. Yes, we learned how to build a wardrobe without the help of glossy tips and feel great in a gray sweatshirt even at an important event.However, when it comes to designer clothes with a capital "d", we still want what Dior's clients wanted - a sense of being in fashion.
A premium brand built on secondary ideas, however, can also give it if it positions itself honestly - as a brand of beautiful clothes. Michael Kors has never called himself a great couturier who puts on a seance with the spirit of Alexander McQueen. Even mass-market brands, which steal less gracefully and ask not so much for it, regularly pay compensation, at the same time answering every accusation of plagiarism: “Well, that's why we are a mass-market with turtlenecks for two thousand rubles. ". It is difficult to resist this impudent honesty: in this way, the fact of a secondary nature is “sewn into” the expectations of the buyer from the very beginning. As practice and sales volumes show, this repels few.
A scandal usually flares up where people discover an imposing brand - a brand that works with the same blue-eyed straightforwardness, positioning itself with much more pretense. Alexander Terekhov's clothes are in the same price range as Ashish, they shine in Russian Vogue, they are loved by Russian-speaking fashion journalists and rich society girls. Oksana Lavrentieva, whose Rusmoda company is engaged in the Alexander Terekhov brand, says in the aforementioned material: “Perhaps Alexander once saw this dress by a British designer, but did not copy it for sure. When you create something, images appear in your head, and you do not even realize that you have already seen it somewhere. Therefore, it cannot be called plagiarism."
Those accused of plagiarism like to talk about postmodernism
This is how we find ourselves in front of an overlooked artist who cannot remember the original source - there are so many ideas in his head. Maybe he stole, or maybe it seemed. Representatives of the brand did not respond to our request, on the pages of other publications the designer also did not comment on the case of plagiarism, did not say anything like “I want to make women beautiful and think only about their pleasure, not about ideas”. He just ignored it.
Those accused of plagiarism love to talk about postmodernism. As if you call plagiarism a nice word - and it gets locked up. Elena Stafieva excellently wrote about the difference between the postmodern approach and thoughtless copying: “Yes, everyone is dragging everything, but some are dragging with meaning, and some without. And it is important not to lose sight of this in all conversations about "postmodernism". Quoting is not a shame if you have your own author's context. And if it is not there, then instead of quoting, we get stupid copying. " The strange and sometimes repulsive Vetements are so praised by critics, because Demna did not just copy the early Martin Margiela - he passed this aesthetics through his own view of the world, made it more commercial and added something of his own (the anger of Soviet people to the whole world). Even with the general similarities between Maison Martin Margiela and Vetements, we are dealing with two different visions and two different approaches to fashion.
And, in parallel, a fresh scandal: first on Facebook, and then on the pages of Buro 24/7, Russian journalists scolded the young brand of Zhan Rudov Lumier Garson, which is entirely based on a compilation of Vetements, Off-White and Raf Simons models. But at the same time, the collection of the brand is put on by Business of Fashion and Vogue.com. So was there a fact of intellectual theft? Was. Even Jean himself does not hide this: “I deliberately achieved all these comparisons and parallels with Vetements. In order to cause a resonance and get any feedback, it was necessary to make a mini-scandal. And I think I did it."
The idea really worked: ten times more wrote about the autumn-winter collection of Lumier Garson than about all the previous ones combined. Jean says that he is not going to use such methods anymore, but so far you can only take his word for it. If, for example, the designer now said that he wants to make Vetements for the people (that is, cheaper), then everything would be clear right away: honest work with the trend.But Jean wants to "stay in a small format, release things in small batches so that they remain relatively inaccessible." So far, he has a great resonance in the press and the opportunity to sell what has already been invented as a copyright, and how he will dispose of it - time will tell.
The phenomenon of theft of visual information is difficult. It is not clear how to regulate this and what counts as theft in the legal sense. It seems that the case with Terekhov and Ashish cannot be called controversial, because the dresses are almost identical, and one appeared three years later than the other. But in fact, the argument “they are similar” does not work in the legal field. In the case of a cut or print, you can only patent the shape.
The patent will not apply to the idea, and if you add berries to your leaf print or shift the elements by a couple of millimeters, you get a completely different picture. Of course, there is a moment of associations with the brand - Louboutin won the right to a monopoly in the world of red soles. Only for such claims, you need to collect a focus group, which will unanimously confirm that the red sole is associated exclusively with your brand, and if another brand makes it, the buyer will get confused.
Large brands consistently enjoy their privileged position over smaller brands
It is also difficult to resolve issues of plagiarism in fashion through the courts because different brands are in different positions. If the Michael Kors team changed their neat approach to borrowing and sewed an exact copy of the Louis Vuitton dress, the brands, by virtue of their scale, would at least be judged on equal terms. And what should, say, the Russian designer Vika Gazinskaya do when Kenzo releases a print that is surprisingly similar to hers, or if Stella McCartney has wooden crystals that were on Vika Gazinskaya sweatshirts a few years earlier and which, it seems, were photographed by all well-known street style photographers? Nothing. In this case, it is almost impossible to prove the fact of intellectual theft.
Firstly, it could be an oversight of someone from the huge team of the giant brand, which relies on trends “from the streets” to create collections as well: what if a junior designer saw the crystals, did not recognize the authorship and decided to be inspired by them? Secondly, the argument “this is the first time we hear about your brand”, unfortunately, works. Large brands consistently enjoy their privileged position over smaller brands.
When Zara once again intellectually robbed two dozen independent illustrators at once earlier this year, the company's main argument was uncompromising: “The lack of a strong personality in your client's product design makes it difficult to understand how the vast majority of people from different parts of the world can draw a parallel between us and Tuesday Bassen ". That was the answer a Zara spokesperson sent to indie jewelery label Tuesday Bassen. And he backed up his letter with numbers: the Zara website is visited by 98 million people every month, the Bershka website - 15 million versus Tuesday Bassen with 160 thousand followers on Instagram. And no one has yet been able to reliably measure a pronounced individuality. Some of the jewelry was taken off the market, but Zara's position probably remained unchanged.
It is easier for the intellectually robbed to console himself with a public scandal and try to cover up the dishonest brand with shame. More balanced measures require time, money, effort and do not guarantee a positive result. Does the fact of intellectual theft influence the sales of a dishonest brand? No. Did the revenues of Balmain, for which Olivier Rousteing "invented" a replica of a Givenchy suit 20 years ago in 2015, have fallen? Whatever it is: Balmain has never had such a successful year - a collaboration with H&M, big sales, happiness, people's love.
We again stumbled upon a simple question: why shouldn't we steal then? The answer is very simple: it is possible, but the decision remains with us. Mass market and brands with democratic positioning steal openly.Unscrupulous expensive brands, whose designers parasitize on other people's ideas, steal in the hope that "no one will notice." In 2016, there are very, too, too many things and every purchase (especially expensive) is also an intellectual choice. Today, fashion critics and the buzzing fashion press no longer affect sales, so only the buyer regulates the behavior of brands. In this situation, it would be nice to know exactly what we are buying. Buying a stolen thing, we are investing in a global lie, of which we ourselves find ourselves the victim. A matter of taste, of course, but you must admit that this is a strange way to spend money.
Photos: Christian louboutin