Monday, April 21, 2008

still on copying

Still on the issue of copying/interpreting/adapting other people's ideas, I had a chat with a friend yesterday. She started a new job some time ago and is very happy where she is. The 'designer' at the previous place hardly designed anything - the range board was filled with tear sheets from magazines and print-outs from various online boutiques selling high-end designer gear. My friend was part of the team responsible for copying these ideas - or adapting them for a less expensive market, whatever you want to call it. I call it copying.

Now, she is still part of the design team, looking at a range board full of original sketches. What's more, the company targets others they've discovered copying their styles, mainly through the online designer boutiques. Yep, the same ones as above. My friend is responsible for notifying the ripper-offers with a letter promising legal action if the copying continues. A complete reversal from where she was, and one she's most pleased about.

My experience is that those online boutiques have made copying easy without having to buy a sample garment; you usually get detailed front and back views, and any tricky bits are usually also featured in detail shots. Of course it's no good for companies trying to be on the first wave of a trend as you are copying what's already on the retail racks, but for the countless middle market brands it seems to work just fine. And if there is one saving grace in copying from a photo as opposed to copying from a physical garment, it's that you are then keeping your fits consistent - presuming you are working from a block. Many companies, mostly at the most mass level of things, still have huge budgets for sample buying and the garments are copied as is, most of the time. What a waste. Apart from the ethical and moral problems, the practice completely ignores the huge resource that the past seasons' work represent. Every season is a fresh start but not in a way I'd describe as positive.

Experience has taught me (in both industry and as a shopper) that people return if they've found something that fits them well, particularly for pants. With the 'starting a fresh' approach, you don't stand a chance of building that dedicated following. You might just get a letter from my friend.

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