Referencing vs. Plagiarism Where is the line drawn? - Page 5 - the Fashion Spot
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Not Plain Jane's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2010
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^ Agree HeatherAnne!

Alexa Chung, Kate Moss, and now Taylor Tomasi - they've all done it, taking items from their closets and getting them knocked off for Madewell, Topshop and Lane Crawford. Was there much publicity about Moss or Chung though? Don't remember. No doubt that Marc by Marc dress is the most blatant rip off. I wonder if Marc will care...

Of course middle-end clothing companies are always knocking off designer lines/styles. Nothing new there.

Fashion: Don’t you recognize me? Death: You should know that I don’t see very well and I can’t wear glasses. Fashion: I’m Fashion, your sister. Death: My sister? Fashion: Yes. You and I together keep undoing and changing things down here on earth although you go about it in one way and I another. Giacomo Leopardi, “Dialogue Between Fashion and Death.”abridged
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H&m has appeared to have misappropriated artwork from a municipal sign in atlanta, georgia.

the artist has written in to regretsy
From: Tori LaConsay
Subject: Copyright infringement by H&M

The East Atlanta Village is one of the most loving, tight-knit neighborhoods I’ve ever known. The residents are like family.
On December 14, 2008, I painted a love letter to my neighborhood. The sign was located on the main thoroughfare on Flat Shoals Avenue.
On one side of the sign, I painted, “You Look Nice Today” followed by a little heart. This was on the side of the sign that I thought people would see on their way to work. On the other side of the sign (the side I thought people would see the most on their return back to the neighborhood) I painted, “I’m So Happy You’re Here” with another little heart. It was a small gesture that I genuinely hoped would make my neighbors feel good.
A few days ago, friends started sending me links to the H&M UK website. Apparently, H&M were so impressed by my work, that they were using it on pillowcases and doormats, with no credit or compensation.
An email to H&M received the following response:
“We employ an independent team of over 100 designers. We can assure you that this design has not been influenced by your work and that no copyright has been infringed.”
Here’s a copy of a complaint a friend sent via H&M’s customer service portal. Please note their reply.
Some friends have been posting on H&M’s Facebook page, which is being scrubbed clean of any mention of this incident as quickly as possible.
I think it is pretty obvious what H&M have done. I hoped you wouldn’t mind sharing this with your readers.
Thank you,Tori LaConsay
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Last edited by lucy92; 25-01-2012 at 10:51 AM.
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^H&M ended up donating thousands of dollars to charity over the ripped off sign.

this is pretty obvious isnt it?

jeremy scott put french fries on numerous designs for adidas and his own line.
forever 21 released this t shirt design this week. it seems that forever21 rounded off the edges of the fries to differentiate it.
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Okay, so here I am, researching different aspects of building a photography business, and I come across this fantastic website called Psychology for Photographers. (This is relevant, I promise; just setting the scene here) Then I find this wonderful article about copycats, and as I read the sentence, "'Part of the way innovation works is that you build on the works of others. That doesn’t just mean wholesale copying, but trying to take what works and improve on it--'" I think to myself, "Hey! This would be good for the TFSers in the outfit lookalikes thread who think that anything that references someone else's work must be a copy!

Instead, I wound up here, figuring there must be a thread dedicated to this issue (and of course there is).

Here's the article:
Copycats Are Not a Threat – But THIS Is.

People have asked me if I worry about copycats. I don’t. And I don’t think you should, either.

Not only are copycats not actually able to truly ‘copy’ you, worrying about them is a waste of time because it takes your focus off the real threat.

I will never write like Hemingway. Non-news-flash of the century. I did not have the childhood he had, and I did not fight in the Spanish Civil War. I did not drive an ambulance in World War One or survive two plane crashes on the same safari in Africa. I was not present at the liberation of Paris, nor did I ever quarrel with Gertrude Stein, or own a house in Cuba. Perhaps because of this, I would never have written, as he did, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.” Try as I might, my life will never produce a novel like A Farewell to Arms. (And that’s okay – we already have one.)

I mulled this over yesterday, along with a quote I read on Brand Camp awhile back:

“When you do any kind of creative work there is an energy to it. This energy is made up of everything that is you, your personality, your life experience, the books you have read, the things that you are drawn to as a human being. This energy gives the work life and this is what people respond to when they see it. When someone copies you, their work will not have this same life or energy. It will not have the essence of you and consequently it will have a flatness to it.” – Linda Montgomery

You can’t simply steal a body of creative work. You can use the same tools, the same locations, the same props – but there will be a difference when you transfer the creative role from one person to another.

Just look at any TV series where a new actor has to replace someone mid-season – same character, same story, same screenwriters, same other actors, same set – but something important still changes. And it always bugs us. You can’t replace an actor and expect no one to notice. Acting is more than just dressing up and saying lines – just like photography is more than getting a subject and pushing buttons.

So no, I don’t worry about copycats. To quote Scott Ginsberg, “There are no cover bands in the rock and roll hall of fame.” If someone’s trying solely to imitate me, they’ll last about as long as someone selling knockoff Gucci handbags on the streets. It’s just not a sustainable way to do business, and they’ll constantly have to reconfigure their actions based on what someone else is doing. Boring.

But there is something I DO worry about: Innovators.

Blogger Mike Masnick wrote: “Part of the way innovation works is that you build on the works of others. That doesn’t just mean wholesale copying, but trying to take what works and improve on it — or take what doesn’t work well and figure out a way to make it work better.”

This is why innovators are always more ‘dangerous’ – and more successful – than copycats. Someone ripping off an idea of mine and trying to recreate it? Meh – I don’t care. Someone taking my idea and making it better? That’s what I’ve got to worry about – and that’s why I have to focus on making it better myself FIRST.

Mozart was an innovator. And yes – he borrowed ideas and concepts from other composers. I was shocked when I found this out, but when I confronted my husband (who holds a doctorate in music) about it, he simply shrugged and said “Yeah….but Mozart did it better.”

That’s the difference between a copycat and an innovator.

No artist is a pristine source of original material. Artists have borrowed from each other for centuries, and some of the greatest works are those where a master-to-be took someone else’s idea and improved upon it. That’s just how it works. Those who created carbon copies would have faded with time, as their work would have that ‘flatness’ that Montgomery spoke of. But those who created something new with what they had were more likely to be remembered.

But a single innovation of your own can’t keep you ahead of the game – you have to keep doing it.

Consider the computer on which you’re reading this blog.

The idea of a “computer desktop” is commonly acknowledged to have been invented by Xerox, and yet I’m betting that the computer you’re using right now is 1) not from Xerox, and 2) has a desktop. Industry lore has it that Steve Jobs and his team raided Xerox’s idea (“They were copierheads who had no clue about what a computer could do,” Jobs is quoted as saying in his biography, “Xerox could have owned the entire computer industry.”) However they got the idea, Apple’s engineers ran with it and made it even better - and then they made it wildly popular. Other companies lost little time in re-stealing the idea, and now pretty much all of us can recognize and navigate a desktop, no matter what computer we’re on.

Which teaches us something else: If you invent (or borrow, then innovate) something great, that’s awesome, but you can’t rest on your laurels. Someone else will take that idea and make it better – just like you have. Art, like technology, functions by taking ideas and building, remixing, melding, and innovating from there. “Your idea” will become a new baseline from which everyone will soon work. No one can expect to come up with an idea and profit from it forever. If you don’t innovate and improve it, someone else will.


So I fear no copycat. Theft is not the threat – innovation is. But the presence of innovation just means that I’ve got to be the one to improve my work before someone else does. And that should push me to do better. If my eyes are constantly scanning for people who might be stealing what I’m already doing, then I’m wasting the energy I could be using to make my own work better.

And you know what? I’m GLAD this is the way the world works. If there was no threat that someone might take my ideas and make them better, then the progress of the world would be unacceptably slow. If that’s the way the computer industry worked, then this blog would look like this:

If that doesn’t trip your trigger, then be grateful for innovation. Just be faster at it than the next guy.

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^Very interesting.

But I'm not quite sure I agree on the Mozart point. Was he an innovator? He did what a lot of other people were doing, he did it well, and he got attention for it. But even for his time, or even within his own body of work, he wasn't known as much of an innovator. I think it's a combination of arguably good music but mostly luck that he's more remembered today than some of his contemporaries.

I think that's applicable to fashion too. There's so much luck involved in the difference between getting noticed and being forgotten. Innovation is a plus, of course, but I definitely wouldn't classify everyone at the top of fashion as innovators.

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I thought of this thread when I saw that Mulberry isn't admitting their latest campaign has anything to do with Spike Jonze's Where The Wild Things Are. I truly loved the campaign, but it just seems awful to not give credit where credit is due when it's such an obvious influence.

Here is my TUMBLR
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they even have monster paws in their store windows...
it definitely feels like 'where the wild things are'...
but i wouldn't say that is spike jones---that is Maurice Sendak who originally illustrated and wrote the book ---

you see...even when you try to give credit, sometimes people still give credit to the wrong person...

anyway- i heard something briefly that there are some new laws being proposed about fashion copywriting in the US...has anyone else heard this or got any further info?

"It is not money that makes you well dressed: it is understanding."

Last edited by softgrey; 13-09-2012 at 10:28 AM.
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Diane von Furstenberg ( has been speaking with members of Congress to advocate for the Innovative Design Protection Act, which would extend some intellectual property protections to fashion design. If I remember correctly, two years ago the Proenza boys and Vera Wang went down to DC to advocate for an earlier version of the bill.

Thoughts? You can see the full text of the bill on the Library of Congress website:

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