“Did the mailman come?” I yelled to my mom while slamming my clear Jansport inspired book bag on the kitchen table.
“I already put the magazine on your bed” she answered.
I could barely focus in AP US History class. I spent my entire French class asking my teacher how to pronounce: pret a porter, automne et hiver, Atelier Gustavolins, et Alexandre Vauthier.”
Aujourd’hui était le grand jour!
I ran to my room, and there she was. The coveted French Vogue. I grabbed la belle and went to the shed outside of our trailer home, which my mother so graciously let me convert into an art studio.
I sat in the shed for hours. Devouring the French Vogue page by page. Writing down words I didn’t know so I could return to school and ask my français teacher.
I worked at a local pizza shop my sophomore year in high school, making $5.15 an hour. Avec moi première chèque, I asked ma mere to take me to a bank so I could open a savings account. When opening the savings account, I was offered a Visa debit card. Every paycheck I would put $15.00 in my savings and use the rest (which wasn’t much) to support my habit. Fashion.
Twice a year (spring and fall) I would call a toll-free Condé Nast number and provide my debit card info to order a French Vogue. When the holy grail aka magazine arrived, I would typically come down with a sudden illness which required me to miss the next day at school.
On page 89, oui I still remember the page, there was a lace long sleeve blouse with a Victorian standing collar.
Love is what I felt. I wasn’t certain how much a euro was worth at that time, but I knew I couldn’t afford 1,850 in any currency.
So I did what any fashion forward sophomore in a small southern VA town would do. I went to a fabric store, purchased a yard and a half of lace and three velvet covered buttons. Un petite older southern woman waved me to her register and asked what I planned to make with the lovely lace I’d selected. By lovely she meant the .99/yard bargain bin lace I’d found.
I reached in my nylon Longchamp inspired bag to retrieve the French Vogue and showed her. She instantly left the register and escorted me down an aisle to find the best needle and thread possible. She was so impressed that a young person respected the art of design so much that they’d try to hand sew a blouse from a magazine. As a gift to me, she used her employee discount, three store coupons, paid the remaining balance and wished me luck.
With only a front facing magazine picture, kitchen scissors and a Parisian chic determination I made that blouse!
Inspiration is truly the greatest form of flattery, but when is that line crossed?
I was inspired by the haute couture blouse and added a few personal touches; covered round buttons and contrasting thread. I did not attempt to add a label that suggested the blouse was made by the designer.
What I created was a knockoff, not a counterfeit. The two terms are often used interchangeably but they are not synonymous. Advertising a product using a designer’s name and/or licensing logos without permission is not inspiration, it is counterfeit. Which is a crime.
Fast fashion retailers are constantly settling lawsuits with designers. Shops like H&M, F21 and Zara are notoriously known for knocking off high-end designs. Are these fast fashion retailers using the designer’s logo, thus selling counterfeit items? No, not at all. Therefore, what they are doing isn’t illegal.
After graduating design school, and spending countless hours studying pattern making, construction theory and textile design, I understand wholeheartedly why designers are enraged that their creations are “inspiring” mass produced poorly constructed pieces.
H&M, F21, Zara and my sophomore high school self-included could NEVER reproduce the technique, craft, artistry and mainly the cost associated with making haute couture garments. The fast fashion retailers price point and my high school budget wouldn’t afford such a duplication.
And if you can’t beat them, join them. Within the past cinq ans, designers have joined fast fashion retailers by releasing street wear collections that are hundreds or thousands of dollars less than their première line. This concept isn’t particularly new. Think Donna Karan vs. DKNY, Ralph Lauren vs. POLO, or Alexander McQueen vs. McQ. The difference is that instead of launching an entirely new more affordable line, designers are creating collections specifically for fast fashion retailers.
With as many designer garments and accessories as I own, I have on occasions decided to purchase, inspired pieces before making the designer investment.
Here are the two reasons why:
1. Will I get my money’s worth?
Whenever I purchase a designer piece I do a cost per wear analysis. Yes, I’m analytical down to wardrobe purchases. I have had my eye on a wool double breasted Balmain blazer. The blazer retails for a little over $2,000. Before making this purchase, I found a much more affordable (pictured above) blazer to add to my wardrobe. I made the lesser purchase first to calculate how often I would wear the piece thus providing accurate data for my cost per wear analysis.
My cost per wear formula:
Wearing the $2000 Balmain blazer 80 times in a year, the blazer costs $25 each time it’s worn. Now lets calculate that further. Keep in mind that the construction on this beau is designed to last a LIFETIME. If I wear this jacket 365 times in the next 5 years, the jacket now has a $5.45 cost per wear. Less than a coconut milk cappuccino.
2. “Is this a lasting treasure, or a moments pleasure?”
While I know Ms. Winehouse was referring to a possible one night stand she was contemplating, I took those lyrics to heart, fashionably. Before purchasing my Celine initial necklace (pictured above and below) I found a “play play” cross necklace from F21 that sort of gave the same feel. I did this to ensure that making an investment in the Celine necklace wouldn’t be a waste. I am typically adorned in pearls so purchasing such an expensive contemporary piece was a bit scary. As bad as I wanted the Celine necklace I had to confirm that this wasn’t a fad.
Surprisingly, this Celine necklace has become a staple for my daily outfits. I have worn this necklace over 50 times since purchasing it in Paris less than a year ago. To date, this belle has a $10 cost per wear. Would you believe that the $12.99 “play-play” necklace I purchased from F21 snapped after the SECOND wear! So technically the F21 necklace cost more than the Celine. I got carried away? I know my husband is reading this so I had to justify the Celine price tag.
The modest non-descript cotton double breasted blazer, and bulky cross necklace were not counterfeits. None of the items displayed the designer’s logo or advertised themselves as such. I do not judge those that decide to go the counterfeit route, but an inspiration is as far as I will go. There is something extremely unethical and unsettling about the means in which counterfeit items are produced. It’s simply not worth it to me.
I couldn’t end this post without paying homage to the knockoff boot that ruled my sophomore year! Steve Madden’s rendition of the J. Lo famed Manolo Blahnik tims.
Did you know there was a difference between a knock-off and counterfeit?
Have you purchased inspired pieces before making an expensive designer leap?
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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