Inspiration versus just a little bit of copying

There is a fine line between work being inspired by another very similar piece even sometimes actually re-using the original, known in the art world as appropriation, and work that is simply an unacknowledged copy of the original, known in the real world as counterfeiting. In art there is the relationship between the idea or concept and the artist’s intent when using, or we should really say, re-using another’s work. But in the commercial world of design we rapidly descend into the mire of copyright infringement and counterfeiting.

From fashion supplement of the sunday paper, supplier and price included, but no text description of fabric or detail of finish.
From fashion supplement of the sunday paper, supplier and price included, but no text description of fabric or detail of finish.

I really liked this design for a skirt and have looked at photographs of both. The one on the left is an affordable version by Flying Wardrobe (£40) and the one on the right is the designer version by Stella Jean (£1908) – on sale at the moment for £815 at Saks Fifth Avenue. If you walked down the street in either one it would be difficult, with just a glance, to say which was which. Obviously, they do differ, the motifs on the expensive skirt look more subtle instead of very obviously and artificially floating on top as in the print of the cheaper skirt. For a ticket price of £1908 the fruit and leaves on the Stella Jean skirt are apparently “dusted with glittering sequins and beads for a magical final touch”, unfortunately you can’t see that effect in photographs.

The cheaper skirt is not a fake, but it has surely been inspired by the designer version. There is also a hint of inspiration from the 1950s perhaps this vintage skirt or similar caught both contemporary designers’attention.

vintage inspiration
Vintage 1950s dirndl skirt.

In the end I suppose we should just remember the expression ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!’ Well, nobody really owns ideas do they?

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

6 thoughts on “Inspiration versus just a little bit of copying”

  1. Interesting but it does seem a bit of a knock off. Wonder where each one was made too? I have a favourite shop where I like to buy Canadian designed and made clothes – and they’re not usually any more expensive than the ones made in dubious conditions. The vintage skirt is divine!

    1. Yes, I think one of the solutions to sweatshop ‘dubious conditions’ is to try and buy locally. It is very tricky in the fashion world because firstly you have to source your textiles. Strictly speaking I should work with wool, but it is over five centuries since my part of the world was the premier source of high quality wool. Silk, linen and cotton production, as well as manmade fibre synthesis, all carry some environmental costs before you begin to examine aspects of human exploitation. I suppose re-working and re-making clothes oneself at home could be the answer, but then that doesn’t fuel the economic merry-go-round!

  2. I tend to look at both of those and think theyre easily enough made yourself if you can only find a nice print. or just a nice stripe to which one could applique some fruit

    although I dont agree with the ridiculous throwaway prices of much high street fashion, at the same time I do wonder how many designers justify thier high prices, esp when the designer gear is often produced in the same sweatshops

    1. I agree with you about the basic simple pattern for the skirts and there is so much choice these days for interesting prints particularly if you look at lightweight furnishing fabrics too. With a decent sewing machine embellishing is possible too even for us mortals who don’t have your skill with the needle!

      About prices – well, High Street/Designer/Handmade/Vintage it’s all a bit of a hornet’s nest and I guess sadly as in the past many skilful people are exploited.

      1. I think having started garment sewing with historical costume I perhaps look at furnishing fabrics more readily, since historically there was no such distinction. although I have to admit I feel about six inches taller when I take off my red velvet dress cos it wieghs over a stone.

        it amuses me that many people think vintage is more ethical from an exploitation point of view, its like the world has forgotten how traditional the sweatshop system is

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