06 April, 2012

rip offs

to follow up from yesterday's post, i thought i would make clear the difference between a designer being inspired by another designer's work....

and a straight up knock off.

designers being inspired by one another (as we saw yesterday) is nowhere near illegal or even ethically questionable. fashion trends are real, and fashion trends are how designers and retailers make their money.

if see by chloe thinks they can sell and profit from creating a shoe that looks a heck of a lot like a pierre hardy one, there really is nothing wrong with that behavior....

other than the fact that it sort of throws into question the status of a luxury diffusion line's design chops.

but to blatantly steal the work of a designer is another thing all together.....

and it happens more often than you might think. below are two recent examples:

(photos courtesy of new york magazine. click here for the story.)

on the left is the christian louboutin's style "staratata" and on the right a style from jessica simpson's line, called "evangela"

(photo courtesy of nbcnewyork.com. click here for the story.)

and another great example- on the left, derek lam's style "ayami" and a shoe from ivanka trump's line, "cadie"

(both comparisons are style from spring 12. i believe you can find all four of these shoes at retail now. or could, at least, before the media attention.)

there are some subtle differences in the knock offs, to be sure..... but there can be no question that the shoes made under trump and simpson's names were meant to be confused with the original louboutin and lam styles.

both knock offs were sold for a quarter (or less) of the price that the designer version sold for.

you can make up your own mind about the price that a shoe is worth. i'm not going to tell you that you should be spending upwards of $700 on a sandal. there's certainly no need for that.

however, the frustrating thing is that neither jessica simpson or ivanka trump themselves were responsible for these shoes being made. i'm guessing that both of them are customers of luxury designers, personally, and will be mortified to find out that such theft has happened under their names.

both lines of shoes are "designed" and manufactured by large american shoe companies that have purchased the licenses to trump and simpson's names. these companies hire "line builders" to go out and shop the markets to find styles to copy.

the reason that these companies feel ok about doing this is that they actually wind up making more money on these styles than derek lam or christian louboutin ever will.

lam & louboutin probably manufactured approximately 1000 pairs of each of these styles.

the companies responsible for trump & simpson's knock offs probably manufactured approximately 20-30,000 pairs. even with the lower price, it's clear to see who makes a more significant profit.

(especially when you consider the fact that there was NO investment of money into the design and development of these styles. lam & louboutin pay designers and technicians to make these things. trump & lam's business partners go out and buy a pair, and send them off to a factory in china to duplicate. nice & easy!)

in the mind of these large companies, it is well worth the potential lawsuit and lawyers fees to participate in this kind of practice. the legal fees, in fact, are built into the cost of running their businesses.

in fact, the media attention that these "scandals" get is often such good advertising for the knock off styles, that the legal fees are probably offset by the uptick in sales!


while i might tease a company like see by chloe for not having an original idea, i also might very well go out and buy one of their styles.

what i try really really hard not to do is buy from companies that i know blatantly steal from "real" designers.

i think a lot about these things, because i work in the industry, i am a designer and know designers who are out of work.

i do believe that part of the reason that these talented folks don't have jobs is because the american public doesn't know (or maybe doesn't care?) that mass marketed fashion is produced on the backs of designers who will never make as much money or be as profitable as the folks that are stealing from them.

when i first started typing up this post, i didn't intend for it to be political. but how can it not be?

i'm really inspired by the number of people who are starting to really ask questions about where their food and clothing come from, and what impact their consumer choices have on communities near and far....

so, i guess i am asking- which is more important to you? having a hot pair of shoes that cost $75 and the degradation of air quality in southern china....

 or a pair of $600 shoes that support designers, technicians and artisans in cities like new york?

there are compromises, i think....

coming up next in this series? i'll try to do a little feature on some reasonably prices shoes that are made with less questionable politics.

ok...... there's a good research project for me ;)


there's a late-breaking addition to this subject!

read it here.


  1. Great post. I think about this all the time when I pass a cheap shoe that looks EXACTLY like a $600 pair I saw in Vogue. I understand that it's nice for people to be able to afford something that looks like a $600 pair... but for all of the work on design to just be stolen like that is super lame.

  2. As someone who loves the high end design products but don't have the budget for thousand dollar handbags, I make a point of shopping at small, boutique, stores, often where the designer is behind the counter or working in the back studio. I get something new, cool, and unique, often the thing is made here in NYC, and I don't have to spend thousands to get it.

  3. thanks for both of these thoughtful comments.....

    the boutique design store is definitely the answer to this quandary, but for those who don't live in a major metropolitan area, the big-box-ification of american retail makes that difficult. i think it's really a shame that most americans don't even have the option if seeing an alternative between these knock-off driven lines, and high-end luxury.

    the fashion business is broken in much the same way that the music & entertainment industries are (though for different reasons), but it doesn't seem like there's much real conversation... yet! thanks for playing along on this one!