During a recent visit home my daughter was trying out my new, preloved camera and the new, also secondhand, prime lens. You can see she was having a go at capturing the ‘infinite’ reflections disappearing down the tunnel created by a pair of mirrors opposite each other.
However, when I saw this photograph downloaded from the memory card it immediately reminded me of a very famous painting. My daughter’s photo had not remotely been an attempt to copy the original Manet painting. That would have been a technical feat, with the intriguing image the artist achieved on canvas, but I do think there is a familiar quality about this photo’s composition. I think that my daughter’s fringe, the mirrors and the cluttered sideboard are also significant details. A little slice of life imitating art, don’t you think?
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.
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.
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?