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The knockoff industry: Friend or Foe?

A Cure That Is Far Worse Than The Problem, Is No Cure At All

The fashion industry is an expensive one, with couture pieces costing up to $12,000; it is no wonder the knockoff industry is just as successful.  Middle class consumers want to have access to the latest styles and trends just as much as the wealthy do.  Thanks to the knockoff industry, this is now possible.  This counterfeit industry brings several positive effects to the economy, trends, and to the designers as well.  However, despite these positive effects, some designers are pushing for copyright laws.  It is understandable why designers would be angry in seeing their designs copied and sold at a cheaper price.  Moreover, the effects of a copyright law would be far worse.

If you shop at Forever 21, H&M, or Zara, like millions of Americans do, then you are investing in knockoff designs.  Major department stores such as these; have made it possible for the middle class to buy the latest trends in fashion at a fraction of the cost.  According to James Surowiecki, “There’s little evidence that knockoffs are damaging the business. Fashion sales have remained more than healthy—estimates value the global luxury-fashion sector at a hundred and thirty billion dollars— and the high-end firms that so often see their designs copied have become stronger.”  That said, it is apparent that designers are only benefiting from these knockoffs.  The fashion industry flows rapidly in a circle. The consumer demands more trends, which means the knockoff manufacturers must copy more trends, which lastly, gives the designers incentive to create another clothing line.  Furthermore, designers are constantly shelling out new designs at a rapid rate and with knockoff manufacturers hastily copying these designs; consumers have an endless supply of trendy goods.  This increases the consumer’s demands for new styles, thus keeping the circle of demand flowing.  As long as the consumer’s demands continue to increase so will the designer’s wealth as well as the economy.  A little anger and frustration from the designers is no reason to disrupt this positive flow of income, which most importantly benefits the designer.  Knockoffs bring more good than bad to the fashion industry.  Knockoffs actually promote the brand or designer, which encourages consumers to invest in high-end fashion labels.  On the other hand, some designers argue that copying a design is like plagiarism or the illegal downloading of music.  Illegal downloads of music bring about a completely different effect than a knockoff.  Illegal music downloading brings absolutely no profit to the economy or the artist unlike the profit that a knockoff brings.  The artist loses a significant amount of money because consumer’s don’t need to buy the album when they can just download it for free.  When people buy knockoffs they are at least paying something, and when they buy these knockoffs it promotes the designer as well as the trend.  Ultimately, it is an unfair comparison between illegal downloading and the purchase of a knockoff.

In contrast to the argument that knockoff’s are direct copies, Derek Lam proclaims, “There’s no such thing as original design, and I’d be the last person to say that I hadn’t been inspired by people like Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent” (Preiser).  Lam is not the only designer in support of the knockoff industry.  Seena Anand is the owner of a fashion house that actually specializes in knockoffs and recently told a newspaper, “copycats are about providing less affluent consumers with stylish clothes — they have a right to look fabulous.” (Bissonette).  Millions of Americans look forward to seeing and reading about the latest trends in Vogue and Elle, and they want to look and dress like the models they see.  With couture fashion being so incredible expensive, it is only fair that the middle class be able to buy cheaper versions of these designer clothes.  According to Francsca Sterlacci, head of the fashion design department at the Fashion Institue of technology (FIT), “it’s expensive and risky to actually create new designs. It’s cheaper and easier to simply knock off successful ones” (Karr). While Diane Von Furstenberg is rallying for copyright laws, other designers are sitting first row in fashion shows looking for the next knockoff design.  For them it’s all about increasing demand and saving money.

With music, books, and movies, having copyright protection it seems only fair for designers to protect their designs.  However if one really looks into the issue they will find it’s a small one.  The knockoffs are minor and not identical, not to mention theses knockoffs bring about an abundance of wealth for both the designer and the economy.  The end does not justify the means.  Designers aren’t losing money over the knockoffs; therefore prohibiting them would be eliminating more good than bad.  Supporters of the Design Piracy Prohibition Act (DPPA) argue that up and coming designers who are just as talented but not as successful as say Chanel, cannot afford copyright protection, and therefore will be vulnerable to counterfeiting (Ciancia).  On the contrary isn’t fashion itself is based on past trends and styles.  If the DPPA is passed it will be contradictive to the nature of fashion.  Fashion is like history, it repeats itself and is inspired/copied.  This law could drastically plummet the fashion industry.  Consumers will be in an uproar, unable to wear what they want and deserve to wear.  This will decrease sales and designers will in fact lose profit.  The question is, are designers willing to pay the price for their pride?

Source by alexis teeling

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