Whoever said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery has never been copied.
Imagination is a glorious thing. All of us are born with a head full of rich dreams. Some of us let bits go along the way, or have the “nonsense” drummed out of us.
Some of us cling to it like a desperate wet rat shipwrecked in a storm.
I, dear readers, am a desperate wet rat.
Imagination has been my salvation. It’s kept me from going starkers in this gig called motherhood.
It’s let me dream a way out of the exhausting, the lonely, the overwhelming and the mundane.
I’ve spun a little world of dreams for my girls all our own. And I’ve scraped together a business and a brand that has taken everything we’ve got.
I know it’s inevitable that at some point everybody will be copied. We copy without meaning to. We see something we love, and we want to keep a little bit of it. We rework it, reinterpret it. We adjust it to suit us perfectly, and we make it our own. This is inspiration. More specifically, this is the light side of “inspiration”.
In another guise it’s much murkier. At it’s most devastating extreme it’s just plain copying. And it’s the cheapest, dirtiest form of theft, fraud and laziness around.
To throw in the quotes while I’m on a roll here, there’s ye olde “if you love something, set it free”. I guess the idea here is that we mere humans can never claim to own an idea, a way of thinking – something grander than the things we can physically hold or buy.
For a designer though, this is like closing your eyes, crossing your fingers and hoping you won’t be mugged on a walk home at 3am in a dodgy part of town in a fabulous but skimpy skirt.
If you’ve got something nice someone else wants, how do you stop them taking it? And how do you stop them saying it was theirs to start with?
I know modern history’s littered with fights over who came up with what first…. but let me beg the question – what right to we have to call the thoughts, ideas and “eureka!”s in our head our own?
The world of fashion is basically a duel: imagination vs inspiration – on steroids. Whether it’s haute couture, ready-to-wear or department store knock-offs, it seems everyone flocks to the same trends, colours and lines all at once. We scramble to drape ourselves in swathes of artfully arranged fabric to both fit in and to differentiate our individual style.
As a designer, what we think our wearers want drives what we create, and I think this is where the temptation to take on ideas that aren’t our own come up.
The number of pieces I’ve designed that no one bought and my daughter wouldn’t wear… It’s never meant I stop creating them. Even though these designs seemed unpopular or unloved by other people, they are always part of the composition of a collection – like an ingredient in a recipe. They help me define my ideas, refine what I’m trying to express and translate these dreams into something people do want to wear.
So it can be challenging, discouraging and just a little heartbreaking when other designers try to jump on your wagon for a free ride and copy your style. The worst bit is that sometimes you will never know if they are in fact pinching your work – or if they really did arrive at the same styling via their own path.
It leaves me feeling so damn crazy – angry as hell and loco as a loony.
So, my friends, the only resolve I have at this second is to just keep going. Quicken my pace.
Make a made dash for the “safe side” like I’m playing Tip or Tag in primary school and that safe side is my brand being well known enough that it won’t matter if someone tries to rip me off, steal my style.
I need to design a thicker damn skin for myself.
And keeping running, running, running. I swear to god I’ll win this race…
… and probably to find out I was only ever running it against myself.