Contemporary fashion designers may name-drop all the artists, architects and interior designers they want, proving they were the main inspirations beyond their collections. Yet it's often almost too easy to spot not in a museum space but in a past collection by someone else, the origin of these "contemporary collections". For example, during the last few weeks, we have seen garments on the runways of the main fashion capitals that showed interesting derivations from iconic looks of the past.
Despite designers may defend themselves highlighting how they are not copycats and how imitation spawns innovation, the Spring/Summer 2013 season looks like it will mainly be based on reinterpreting and regurgitating various themes/details/elements/motifs from the '60s.
Leafing through old Vogue issues from that decade you will easily spot in a shoot about André Courrèges's designs, Prada's S/S 13 furry flowers (albeit Miuccia reinvented for the next season in a Japanese key...) and Marc Jacobs' for Louis Vuitton's yellow and white chequered looks (albeit he said he borrowed them from artist Daniel Buren's grids...).
And what about the Céline's S/S 13 Magritte-inspired shoes that seemed the umpteenth remix of other Magritte-inspired shoes by Comme des Garçons (A/W 2009-10), Alexander McQueen (S/S 2009) and Pierre Cardin (circa 1986).
Some of you may defend fashion designers saying these are not cases of plagiarism. In a way you're right since there is no copyright in fashion and this allows us all to buy a Courrèges original and reproduce it as it, maybe slightly altering its colours and other details and then putting our name on it.
But if that's the essence of fashion and if it's not just fast fashion retailers who are into this game, but also many major fashion houses, why bothering buying these “new” garments when we may invest in the real thing or while we may buy an old pattern and actually come up with something unique ourselves?
Besides, is it time to change the laws on a global level and protect fashion or time to turn the business into an Open Source kind of industry? Which are the main damages or advantages that a culture of copying has so far caused and who is benefiting from it, just fast fashion retailers or also big fashion houses and if it's wrong for a huge retailer to copy a famous fashion house, how serious is it for a big fashion house copying a designer from a previous decade (an issue highlighted also in other previous posts...)?
The doubts about the damages caused by the lack of creative ownership in fashion remain and (if you want to develop more doubts or) if you want to have further information about the issue watch the TEDx lecture I'm embedding in this post.
In the lecture Johanna Blakley, Deputy Director of the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California, talks about fashion and intellectual property rights moving from Miuccia Prada. Blakley also wonders if without ownership there is no incentive to innovate and I find this point extremely interesting: maybe the time has come to sit down and have some serious thinking about issues involving fashion and copyright.
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