(Left to Right) Mango, Gucci Autumn/Winter 2015, H&M, Chloé Spring/Summer 2015 | Image: Paul Price for BoF
Do knockoffs harm the fashion business? Or does copying keep the wheels of the industry turning?
LONDON, United Kingdom — Copying is as old as the fashion industry itself. As early as 1903, Charles Frederick Worth began sewing labels bearing his signature into his clothes as a means of authenticating his designs. Coco Chanel considered knockoffs so inevitable that she described them as “the ransom of success.” (This position didn’t prevent her from allying with her rival, Madame Vionnet, in 1930 to sue Suzanne Laneil, a copyist caught with 48 sketches of their designs.)
Today, knockoffs are more rife than ever before. Fast fashion companies like Zaraand H&M have built multi-billion-dollar businesses reproducing the latest catwalk creations for a fraction of their original price. And copying exists among luxury brands too — in the past few years, companies including Saint Laurenthave faced lawsuits from other fashion houses.
Is this copycat economy damaging designers? Or does it keep the wheels of the industry turning?