There have been a number of discussions on various blogs this past summer, and I have been eager to form a response. After a few months of thinking about my answer, and formulating my opinion I wanted to share a piece of my mind on this topic. A fantastically heated debate on the role of CopyCat Retail Stores and Original Designers.
Which side do you take… Copycat designs are a way for the average consumer to stay current and wear runway styles without breaking the bank OR Copycat designs take business from the designer and cheapen the value of their work. Explain.
I find myself completely on the fence when it comes to this question. Often times, I even find myself buying things that are clearly runway inspired without even realizing it! I live in Albany NY, which is not known for it's designer duds, and it's fashionably creative culture. I am very ignorant to the different runway fashions, designers, and the styles that come in and out with each show. I would like to clarify. I love watching runway shows. I love when the Style network airs show after show after show. I can sit in awe of the work as it marches up and down each runway, but I don't often find myself pulling inspiration from these shows. It may be that my surroundings do not require me to be aware of the latest off the runway looks, but much of my daily inspiration comes from more day to day things. Magazines, Blog's, Specific Brand Look books, and people on the streets. I think what I love about runway shows, is that they exist in this world of fashion, that is so different than my daily life. If I showed up to a work meeting wearing anything straight off the runway, they would do more than just stare at me! They may even ask some round about questions to make sure that I still have my head on straight. For those of us who do not have the opportunity to work in the Fashion Business, it is almost untouchable, and is best accessed one piece at a time. That being said, I think that even the Small Town Fashionista's like myself, understand the difference between buying a designer piece, and an item that looks like a designers. Your purse may look like it's straight off the shelves of Coach, but when you know that you handed a nice man $20 in an alley of Canal Street for it, you will just never feel the same connection to it, as if you saved up all of your money and bought the original.
That is not to say that we all don't appreciate a little dress up every now and again. More often than not, I shop at some of my favorite retail stores purchasing items that I like on me. Sometimes I like them because of how they fit into the trends of the season, but mostly I just like the way they fit my body. Even more often I will sometimes be flipping through a magazine months after my purchase and see an item that looks just like it staring back at me, but with a much more expensive price tag. What a fun little game that can become. The truth of the matter is, designers spend their lives dictating what women want to wear, and they are often so good at their jobs that we do just that. We wear what they design.
Isn't one of the most amazing parts of a Runway Show the styling? I would like to think that even if I can find a jacket that looks just like the Marc Jacobs one from Spring 2010 ( for example), I would probably still never wear it with those pants, never with those colors shoes, and probably with a different shirt. That's what makes fashion art. Copycatting, would be to wear the exact outfit, exactly as it was displayed on the models. The fun of enjoying fashion is being able to wear different pieces in different ways. I have never been one to shop from a mannequin, but every so often you come across an extremely well dressed plastic girl in the window of a store and you can't help but to scoop up every item she has on. If you are the sort of person who would only wear those particular items with each other however, and never in any other way, than you're type of fashion is just different from mine.
When it comes to art, everything is based on opinion. I may see different names under canvases in the Met, but without those names I may not be able to identify one artist from another. That seems to be the constant challenge for artist's, to make their work just a little more there own. The same can be said for designers. Designing clothes is simply another art form, and it can be hard to make your stand out the necessary little extra bit. It is just as the old adage says, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
All of that being said, and I do mean all of that ( sorry for my mid-day rant), I have no problems buying cheaper versions of some of my favorite designer items. I know that I am getting what I pay for and so my $10 tee from Forever 21 will never ever hold up like my $100 splurge tee from Diane Von Furstenberg. It's a consequence of my action. I hope that my actions will never negatively affect the designing world, and I also hope that my purchases of similar clothes can be seen as flattery. If there weren't people pining after the looks from designers, there would be no need for designers. It is the constant ever spinning cycle of fashion.