Copycatting in fashion, beauty is more harmful (and prevalent!) than you think

From a young age we are taught that copying our peers’ work is wrong. Their intellectual property–whether it’s a kindergarten macaroni necklace or Pulitzer Prize-winning literature–is just that: their property.

Federal law mandates that intellectual property receives copyright protection from the moment it is fixed in a medium, according to the United States Copyright Office. In short, the second an idea leaves your mind and becomes something tangible (i.e., perceptible to at least one of the five senses), it is copyright protected under U.S. law.

But, that didn’t stop the classroom bully, and it certainly does not stop big-name fashion and beauty retailers. The rise in fashion and beauty bloggers and YouTubers has created a new environment in which dupes can not only breed, but thrive.

Beauty gurus (and aspiring beauty gurus) share countless dupe guides on social media platforms like Pinterest. Dupe guides compare high-end products their low-end counterparts. [source: Pinterest]
“Everyone has gotten so fucking lazy in [the beauty] industry. There. I said it. There are some beautiful things out there that the labs are doing, but no one bothers to do it,” writes Glossible‘s Sonia Roselli.

“Why? Why bother? Copycatting is big business and it’s faster to get to market. There is no better time than now to be in the cosmetics manufacturing game. Cosmetic labs are working at full capacity and some aren’t even taking new customers, thanks to social media.  But because of social media, I find that we are going down a path that is bad for all of us.”

According to Roselli’s post, the biggest names in beauty knockoff products from small brands such as Viseart, Melanie Mills and PPI. Their motive?

“If I were being completely honest, in my opinion, most big cosmetic companies don’t even TRY anymore. And it’s not just the cosmetic companies, it’s the labs and manufacturers too who take direction from these companies.  I imagine the chemists are crying in their glass beakers because they WANT to create innovative products but the companies won’t let them. Why? Because copycatting is big business and easier to do.”

Roselli also notes that copycatting runs rampant in the technology industry, as well, citing Apple’s recent lack of innovation.

“What happened to luxurious textures and colors that were perfect for skin tones? What happened to a brand being known for their foundation colors? What about a brand being known for their skin products? It’s all the same shit just a different day,” Roselli asks.

“To me the beauty industry looks a little something like this: We are the lions and the cosmetic companies just throw us a carcass.”

Viseart’s multicolor eyeshadow palette, which retails on Sephora.com for $80, has been duped by web-based retailer Morphe. Morphe’s so-called Picasso Palette retails for $14.99.

W-7, a UK-based cosmetics company, has not one, but three blatant knockoffs of Urban Decay’s famous Naked eyeshadow palettes. Naked, Naked 2 and Naked 3 retail for $54 each, while W-7’s dupes go for $12.95 each. The company also sells a bronzer called Honolulu ($5.30) eerily similar in color and packaging to Benefit’s Hoola bronzer ($29), a cult favorite.

There is also e.l.f., a drugstore beauty brand also known as Eyes, Lips, Face. Roselli notes the similarities between e.l.f.’s Pink Passion blush ($5.30) and Nars’ Desire blush ($30), and mentions that the brand is a notorious industry-wide copycat.

W-7 In The Buff: Lightly Toasted palette versus Urban Decay’s Naked palette [source: Pinterest]
“Most people don’t realize how or why copycat imitation hurts our industry, or for that matter, even care,” Roselli writes.

“As a pro makeup artist, I can go our right now to any Ulta or Sephora and tell you that 85 percent of all makeup is complete and utter bullshit. Don’t believe me? Go on any Facebook group that caters to professional makeup artists and you will see a surge in going back to old brands…Graftobian, Ben Nye, RCMA just to name a few…Why? Because the big brands are not listening to working pros. They are listening to beauty bloggers.”

While some beauty bloggers and vloggers are truly trustworthy and informative, Roselli insists there are many who are quite the opposite:

“I think [bloggers] have an interesting place in the industry [because they] allow people to discover new products. While a lot of bloggers out there are great (especially the ones that have worked in the industry for years), these aren’t the ones I’m talking about here. I’m talking about people who have no clue about beauty.”

These bloggers care more about making money than they do about creating quality content or sharing what they’ve learned with a larger community.

“Over the last few years, beauty bloggers have become puppets for the cosmetic companies,” Roselli continues.

“Last year, I sat in on a big meeting with some higher up cosmetic level execs who were giving a talk on how they utilize social media influencers.  The story went a little something like this: A very popular Youtube beauty blogger was given $100,000 to blog about a new product that was coming out.  (Yes, you read that correctly: 1 video. 15 minutes long. $100k). But, guess what? Her videos drove over $2 million in sales in one day! As a matter of fact, [in] minutes. [The blogger] said exactly what [the cosmetics company] wanted her to say (in her own words of course).”

As long as cosmetics companies can rely on big-name beauty bloggers and YouTubers, they can continue to make shoddy dupes of high-end products an end up with a pretty spectacular return on investment.

“That means these cosmetic companies can make absolute bullshit products and not care about the actual product they produce because they have beauty bloggers to drive the sales. So, they rip each other’s products, have a pissing match on who can knock it off better and play this game of cat and mouse to see who has the bigger balls,” Roselli writes.

Jenn Im, YouTuber behind Clothes Encounters, sports a slip dress by Necessary Clothing, a trendy fast fashion retailer. [source: Instagram user @imjennim]
Crushed Velvet Zillah Slip Dress in Blush by Are You Am I, $675 [source: Are You Am I]
However, Roselli doesn’t blame any beauty blogger for what they do; in fact, she applauds their ability to be so influential.

“Secretly, I laugh and say, ‘go girl!’ to the beauty blogger and wanna high five her after she hits ‘publish’ on her YouTube channel. It’s this double edge sword that is creating a sea of mediocrity in the marketplace. And who loses? We do, the pro and the consumer. ”

Nonetheless, it is the process in itself that perpetuates the lack of quality products currently on the market; Roselli insists it is a vicious cycle.

“The cosmetic companies watch social media trends, give the masses what the think they want, and use the beauty blogger to promote the sales. What are we left with? Subpar bullshit,” she writes.

“If beauty blogger tells you that the Waffle House yellow foundation she is using is the best thing since Netflix on a cold rainy day, well guess what? People believe her. Then, women are left with crappy products that don’t perform and are constantly shopping for something that works, leaving us in a constant state of searching for the next hero product for ourselves.”

And, the same can be said for fashion. It doesn’t matter anymore what’s on the runway or what’s in the most esteemed fashion magazines. Consumers are more likely lust after looks they see on the most influential bloggers and vloggers, who in large part promote fast fashion (whether they realize it or not!), according to The Fashion Law.

In addition to being a violation of intellectual property, fast fashion negatively impacts both garment workers and the environment, as well as consumers. From an article published in 2014, The Huffington Post notes a number of toxins found in garments from several popular fast fashion retailers.

“According to the Center for Environmental Health, Charlotte Russe, Wet Seal, Forever21 and other popular fast-fashion chains are still selling lead-contaminated purses, belts and shoes above the legal amount, years after signing a settlement agreeing to limit the use of heavy metals in their products,” Shannon Whitehead writes.

“Lead exposure has also been linked to higher rates of infertility in women and increased risks of heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure. Many scientists agree there is no ‘safe’ level of lead exposure for anyone. The lead contamination is all in addition to the pesticides, insecticides, formaldehyde, flame-retardants and other known carcinogens that reside on the clothes we wear.”

[source: takepart.com]
Whitehead also goes on to explain the impacts the fast fashion industry has on the environment:

“The average American throws away over 68 pounds of textiles per year. We’re not talking about clothing being donated to charity shops or sold to consignment stores, that 68 pounds of clothing is going directly into landfills. Because most of our clothing today is made with synthetic, petroleum-based fibers, it will take decades for these garments to decompose.”

Fast fashion retailers also exploit garment workers in developing countries, because these countries do not offer labor laws that protect their workers.

“Industry estimates suggest that 20 to 60 percent of garment production is sewn at home by informal workers, according author Lucy Siegle in her book, To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?

While there are machines that can apply sequins and beading that look like handiwork, they are very expensive and must be purchased by the garment factory. According to Siegle, it’s highly unlikely that an overseas factory would invest in the equipment, particularly if the clothing being made is for a value-driven fast-fashion label,” Whitehead continues.

“Carrying out her own investigation, Siegle learned that millions of desperate home-workers are hidden in some of the poorest regions of the world, ‘hunched over, stitching and embroidering the contents of the global wardrobe…in slums where a whole family can live in a single room.’

Often with the help of their children, the home workers sew as fast as they can and for as long as daylight allows to embellish and bedazzle the clothes that end up in our closets. Siegle goes on to say, ‘They live hand to mouth, presided over by middlemen, tyrannical go-betweens who hand over some of the lowest wages in the garment industry.'”

What does it mean when fast fashion goes green?

Often the object of criticism for environmental advocates and enthusiasts, a handful of fast fashion retailers launched green initiatives earlier this year.

Last month, Haute Mess reported that retail giant Target announced a sophisticated plan to revamp its stores and increase sales, which includes a series of goals to better the environment.

Target revealed a new forest products policy and goals, including having full visibility into the wood contained in or used to make products sold by Target or used in its operations; implementing policies, practices and tools that facilitate the management of raw materials throughout the supply chain and across operations, and actively supporting efforts that prevent the destruction of forests and other natural resources,” reports WWD.

“Last year, Target introduced its reliable sourcing aspirations, which included a commitment to sourcing wood from well-managed forests. The retailer pledged to source for Target’s own brands wood from well-managed and credibly certified forests, and whenever possible, from post-consumer recycled materials.”

WWD also reports that Target will implement its policies beginning in 2018, with “a goal to have six of Target’s owned brands fully compliant with the forest products policy by 2022.”

The first products the retail giant plans to revamp are those containing wood or paper-based materials, like tissues and paper towels, wrapping paper, furniture components and clothing, according to WWD. This includes brands such as Cat & Jack, Pillowfort, Threshold and Smith & Hawken.

“This policy comes after Target announced its commitments to responsible sourcing, which focuses on improving worker well-being, achieving net-positive manufacturing and deriving key raw materials from ethical and sustainable sources. The retailer in January announced a chemical policy,” WWD continues.

Kelly Caruso, president of Target Sourcing Services, tells WWD that the retailer also plans to “target the rayon used in apparel, which comes from viscose, a forest product.”

“We’ll be working on the brands’ packaging, too,” Caruso continues.

The new forest policy comes a couple years after the retail giant announced that palm oil, which is “used in its owned brand food, personal care and household cleaning products, will be fully traceable and sustainably sourced by 2018, or sooner, according to WWD.

“When the retailer moves from raw materials to commodities such as beef and soy, it will look for ways to achieve zero net forestation.”

In 2012 Target also aimed to reduce the environmental impact of its production practices.

“Target piloted 10 best practices in three high-volume textile mills in China for a year. Realizing significant savings in water energy and materials, Target expanded the pilot to two additional Chinese cities in 2013 and is hoping for similarly positive results,” WWD writes.

Target’s forest products policy goal at a glance [source: A Bullseye View, Target’s official blog]
Swedish fast fashion giant H&M launched its Bring It On campaign in January 2017 as part of its Garment Collecting program, which began in 2013.

“Nothing is too torn, worn or used to get a second life. Not your lonely sock, your worn-out dress or your ripped sheet. Yet tons and tons of textiles—that could’ve been reused or recycled—are thrown away with household waste. Being one of the world’s largest fashion companies comes with great responsibility, and that’s why we launched our global garment collecting initiative in 2013. You bring your garments, we give them a new purpose. Together we can close the loop on fashion,” H&M’s website explains.

“We believe that clothes deserve better than to end up in landfills. So, for our newest conscious initiative we made two new designs in 500 unique pieces – entirely out of used denim. Because great fashion can be made from old clothes.”

Consumers can bring their unwanted garments to any H&M store to be repurposed.

“The garments collected that cannot be distributed as second-hand goods will either be converted into other products, such as cleaning cloths and upcycled items, or ground down and used in the construction or automotive industries as padding and insulation. Some garments get a new chance as textile fibers. They will be spun into yarn and used in the new H&M Conscious range,” the site continues.

“During the process, nothing goes to waste. The metals from buttons and zippers are also recycled. Even the dust is taken care of. It is pressed into cubes that goes to the paper industry as a co-product to cardboard. The very last remains of the collected garments are burned and turned into new energy.”

Garments part of the retailer’s Conscious range are denoted with a green label that reads “CONSCIOUS” on H&M’s website. The company insists it does not profit from any of the returned textiles.

“Revenue generated from collected items is donated to charity and invested in recycling innovation,” the website reads.

[source: H&M]
But, attorney and famed fast fashion critic Julie Zerbo, the voice behind The Fashion Law, argues that this is all a part of greenwashing: “the promotion of green-based environmental initiatives or images without the implementation of business practices that actually minimize environmental impact (or any of the other negative effects of fast fashion).”

“[Greenwashing often includes misleading customers about the actual benefits of a product or practice through misleading advertising and/or unsubstantiated claims. And swearing off the use of animal products.”

Last year, Nasty Gal, a web-based fast fashion retailer and notorious copycat, announced it would no longer continue to sell any items made with angora rabbit fur, after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) “conducted an investigation of the angora wool industry, leading to allegations of harsh and inhumane conditions in which the rabbits used for angora are treated,” according to The Fashion Law.

“Much like H&M’s well publicized recycling efforts and its ‘Conscious’ Collection, and Zara’s new eco-friendly stores, such green efforts–including those involving animals–tend to come with downsides of their own, such as alternative motives, aimed at creating a pretty picture in the face of significant problems at the foundational level of such business models.”

Zerbo insists that fast fashion inherently has a negative environmental impact; eye-catching campaigns that claim to be environmentally conscious are really marketing strategies aimed at attracting consumers.

“Fast fashion is a dirty industry, second only to the oil industry, according to recent reports. In order to keep costs low, fast fashion suppliers and even the big-name retailers, themselves, operate in ethically questionable ways. As we have seen in a number of recent lawsuits, they fire pregnant employees to avoid paying health insurance costs (hey, Nasty Gal). They discriminate against transgender employees (hey, Forever 21). They target shoppers based on race (that’s you, H&M) and employees based on religion (and you, Zara),” The Fashion Law writes.

“Their suppliers routinely bypass important quality control and manufacturing health/safety standards because these practices are costly to implement and monitor and that would cut into their bottom line. Hence, the toxic chemicals in clothes, the frequent employee hospitalizations and the increasing number of fires and buildings collapsing.”

Coachella: music & arts festival or advertising extravaganza?

Friday, April 14 marked Coachella’s 2017 kickoff. With Radiohead, Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar headlining, more than 100,000 guests are expected to be in attendance after the Indio City Council voted to raise the cap from 99,000 to 126,000 last year, according to The Desert Sun.

The music and arts festival, which launched in 1999, seems to be filled with guests more interested in advertising and self-promotion than, well, music and the arts. While Empire Polo Club, the event’s venue, is technically in Indio, California, many well-known attendees refer to the location as Palm Springs, a nearby resort town about 2 hours outside Los Angeles by car. Every year it seems the entire West Coast (and half the East Coast) makes its way to Palm Springs for the 3-day-long affair.

Shea Marie and Jess Mair at a party sponsored by Revolve on the first day of Coachella 2017 [source: Instagram user @revolve]
A-list celebs like Emily Ratajkowski made their big Coachella debut this year, along with bloggers and YouTubers like Chiara Ferragni and Lauren Elizabeth. Of course, social media starlets like Hailey Baldwin and Kylie Jenner hinted at their attendance via Instagram, too.

Additionally, several big-name brands headed to Palm Springs for the first festival of the season. Revolve, a web-based retailer, enlisted the help of It girls like Olivia Culpo and Devon Lee Carlson to promote its brand with the hashtag #RevolveFestival. Carlson, along with her younger sister Sydney, also starred on the Snapchat account of online boutique Dolls Kill on Friday, the 14th. Later, the duo attended Galore magazine‘s party together. The sisters Carlson rose to fame after launching Wildflower, a brand of iPhone cases with a fan base that includes Miley Cyrus and Bella Hadid.

YouTube sensations Christine Sydelko and Elijiah Daniel used their humor to rep the popular app Grindr, while model Cait Barker and pals promoted Pretty Little Thing‘s joint party with Paper magazine. Other models in attendance included ARSENIC regular Kylie Rae and Miss California USA 2016 Nadia Grace Mejia.

The hard-partying gang that includes Jess Mair, Shea Marie and Caroline Vreeland were also eager to make their presence at Coachella known via their respective social media platforms.

Victoria’s Secret bombshells Alessandra Ambrosio, Martha Hunt, Josephine Skriver, Romee Strijd and Jasmine Tookes reunited in Palm Springs to promote their hashtag #VSangeloasis. Ambrosio, a VS veteran-turned-swimwear designer, gained a little extra recognition for her namesake brand Ale by Alessandra, sold at, you guessed it, Revolve. Sydney, the younger of the two Carlson sisters, actually sported a knit bikini by Ale on Friday, the 14th.

Rachel Zoe, famed fashion designer, businesswoman and writer behind The Zoe Report, hosted a party dubbed #ZOEasis on Saturday, April 15. Notable attendees like actress Kate Bosworth, supermodel Chanel Iman, blogger Danielle Bernstein (We Wore What) and Zoe herself took to Instagram to show off their looks from the second day of Coachella at Colony 29, a picturesque resort in Palm Springs.

Sydney Carlson in an Ale by Alessandra swimsuit, yellow bandana and blonde wig, captioned “#RevolveFestival” [source: Instagram user @sydneylcarlson]
Nonconformists coined the term, err, hashtag #nochella to mark their opposition to the hype that surrounds the pseudo-event, which Google defines as “an event arranged or brought about merely for the sake of the publicity it generates, especially one designed to appear spontaneous or unplanned.”

To any media savvy person, it is extremely apparent that these celebrities, starlets and brands use Coachella to network both in-person and through social media. Tiresome? Definitely. Unethical? In some cases. But, illegal? Not quite. In fact, the music and arts festival is known to take action against any person or entity that does illegally exploit its name or likeness for advertising/sales purposes.

A month before the festival began, on March 14, Coachella’s parent company Goldenvoice filed a lawsuit in California federal court against Urban Outfitters “for products sold and marketed under the Coachella name,” according to SPIN.

Urban Outfitters, in addition to its namesake stores, owns Free People, an upscale bohemian brand known for its festival-ready looks.

“The lawsuit alleges that Free People sold clothes specifically marketed using the word Coachella, which the festival owns as a trademark, including a ‘Bella Coachella’ line of clothes and a ‘Coachella Valley Tunic’ that has since been pulled off Free People’s website,” SPIN writes.

Furthermore, “the suit alleges that Coachella’s business selling its own branded apparel has suffered due to Free People’s use of the name, and also mentions exclusive contracts with H&M and Pandora jewelry to sell Coachella-licensed apparel.”

Free People and parent company Urban Outfitters, however, attempted to get around possible legal implications with the music and arts festival through “alleged use of  ‘Coachella’ in website URLs, metadata tags and paid Google keywords, so that products that aren’t specifically branded with the name of the festival would still turn up in searches for terms like ‘Coachella outfit.'”

“Incidentally, some parts of the suit read like Coachella is hoping that in addition to deciding the case in its favor, the judge will don his or her own fringe top and floppy hat and join them out in the desert next year,” SPIN reports.

“‘Coachella is about more than just music,’ one line [of the lawsuit] reads. ‘The festival’s venue also includes camping facilities for some 15,000 attendees (complete with a karaoke lounge and a general store), and an amazing selection of food and beverages from a wide range of restaurants. The festival also features an extensive art exhibit which includes many pieces of art (including sculpture and so-called ‘interactive’ art). The music, the food, the art and, of course, the fellowship of other attendees, taken together, makes Coachella more than just a concert to attend—it truly is an experience.’”

From the looks of this lawsuit, it seems Coachella itself has not only acknowledged, but embraced the changing scope of its famous festival. Judging by its promptness in filing lawsuits, Coachella is quick to call out companies illegally cashing in on its trademarked name and copycat-prone likeness.

Free People’s “Coachella Valley Tunic” [source: Pinterest]

Fashion’s first backstage photographer explains new media’s effect on the industry

In a recent interview with Dazed, fashion’s first backstage photographer Guy Marineau discusses the immense changes new media has brought to the industry. After 40 years photographing fashion behind-the-scenes and candidly, Marineau, now 70-years-old, is quite possibly the only authority who can truly shed light on this subject.

It seems now that fashion shows and street style are all smoke and mirrors; an industry that was once centered around art and quality now revolves around labels and advertising.

“Before the 1990s fashion week didn’t mean anything to anyone,” Marineau tells Dazed.

“That may come as somewhat of a surprise if you have experienced what is now the fashion week norm: a narrow, Parisian street outside a show, swollen with editors and Ubers, street-style photographers and their subjects, who linger with intent, smoking with a studied aloofness,” Dazed continues.

“This exact scene is re-enacted multiple times throughout the week, roughly four times a year per fashion capital, in what is perhaps emblematic of an increasingly chaotic, ever-expanding industry.”

Christy Turlington by Guy Marineau [source: Guy Marineau]
But, things didn’t always work that way. Not too long ago, fashion week was a completely different experience. In fact, it was an experience, period. Now, the four continuous weeks that make-up fashion month are more like a serious of pseudo-events documented on social media platforms by the starlets who occupy the front rows.

According to Dazed, “it was before this pre-internet, pre-street-style era that Marineau first began to document fashion week, unwittingly creating a template for much that we now take for granted.”

As bloggers, video bloggers (“vloggers”) and social media influencers begin to sport the styles shown on the runway during fashion month, true fans of fashion long for old school editorials–not sponsored content created to get likes and views, and increase sales, on Instagram or Snapchat.

“The atmosphere in 1980s fashion shows was completely different from today. Paris was a source of inspiration, it was a free, wild city without any real competition at the time. Backstage, there weren’t many people around, just models, the designer’s team, the dresser, prop masters, two or three hairdressers, very few make-up artists. Girls would generally do their own make-up,” Marineau tells Dazed.

“There was much more freedom than now. It was an era of unaffected, relaxed, happy and rather good-looking young women who would go and have lunch with us between two fashion shows. They were far from the unhealthy-looking models of today. Backstage, models would read literature while waiting for the show to begin, but today it’s been replaced by selfies. Taking your own picture by yourself or with others has become a way of life. But who am I to judge?”

Once upon a time, models were far from household names in the United States. Today, they have millions of social media followers and fans of all ages. Not to mention, they are now synonymous with celebrities. They no longer quietly read while waiting backstage; they snap pictures with one another to post across various social media platforms, which receive thousands of views within seconds.

“Professionals and fashion cognoscenti would attend the shows without knowing much. Unless they carefully read women’s magazines, they’d only notice events on the scale of Christian Dior’s New Look,” Marineau continues.

“Today, many people have unwittingly become fashion experts. But is it normal that fashion should change so often? Can it be said that fashion is a form of art reflecting both a specific time and society?”

Kate Moss by Guy Marineau [source: Guy Marineau]
This change brought about the need for more fashion photographers. As soon as backstage photography like Marineau’s became prominent, designers saw it as a successful means of advertising. Tempted by a growth in recognition and sales, both designers and photographers began trading their creativity and craftsmanship for acceptance by the mainstream media and mainstream consumers.

“Fashion photography became a job in the mid-1970s when houses like Saint Laurent and Calvin Klein decided to turn these presentations into a bigger event to advertise their fragrances. Now, it’s still about sales, but, for me, the charm is gone,” says Marineau.

“I used to see fashion as a large playground where you could experience the highest stress or the biggest joys. But it also was a unique and authentic opportunity to express who you are.”

Once cameras become more accessible and photography became a pastime for many, fashion photography changed immensely. But, despite the advancements in technology, the number of photographers in the fashion industry shrunk from 350 to approximately 15 in a span of approximately 30 years, according to Marineau.

“Every magazine, every paper, every press agency had their own photographer. So each of them had original images, a different angle, a different light, a different shot. In the 1980s there were about 350 of us, photographers approved by the Chambre Syndicale. Today there’s only about fifteen. Now all the magazines and websites all use the same pictures–bland, processed, edited images,” Marineau says.

“That means Vogue France can contain the same photos as Elle Germany, Brazilian Bazaar or Chinese Marie-Claire”

Gisele Bündchen by Guy Marineau [source: Guy Marineau]
Not only have cameras themselves changed, photography software has, too. Now, anyone with an iPhone and the photo-editing app VSCO can make editorial-worthy images. This has led to a very monotonous array of both backstage and street style images. Airbrush and other photo-altering tools designed to remove imperfections take away the uniqueness and the charm from an individual’s images.

“For me, there’s no merit in it anymore, because it’s no longer photography, it’s informatics. Post-production has become more important than the shooting itself. Photography, photos-graphos in Greek, means ‘writing with light.’ Software takes this ability away from you. You can be a very bad photographer and a good Photoshop user, so you’ll still deliver images,” Marineau continues.

“It’s become too simple, too easy.”

Kiini settles lawsuit with notorious copycat Victoria’s Secret

Knockoffs are all too common in the world of fashion–especially now that social media allows retailers to have an inside look at their competitors’ inner workings.

The latest high-profile lawsuit, involving New York-based swimwear brand Kiini and famed lingerie powerhouse Victoria’s Secret, was settled late last month, despite the fact it was filed in October 2015.

“According to Kiini’s complaint, Victoria’s Secret produced a bathing suit that looked ‘virtually indistinguishable’ to its original bikini design. Though the terms of the settlement are confidential, the [law]suit is worth reflecting on,” The Fashion Law writes.

“Kiini, which has gained a ‘cult-like following and is known for the original, distinct, copyright-protected swimwear designs,’ initiated the action against the lingerie giant for copyright infringement, trade dress infringement, and unfair competition.”

There are tons of Kiini dupes on the online market from small web-based boutiques nowadays, but when a retail giant like Victoria’s Secret blatantly copies a high-end swimwear brand, there are several complex lessons to be learned.

Kiini original bikini [source: Lyst]
Victoria’s Secret dupe [source: Bikini Mecca]
“As Kiini set forth in its complaint, Victoria’s Secret allegedly marketed and sold an infringing copy of Kiini’s well-known bikini design ‘in the pursuit of its own self promotion and profit, and to Kiini’s unfair harm and detriment,'” The Fashion Law continues.

“The Kiini swimsuit in question–which is stocked by high end retailers, such as Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman and Net-A-Porter, and retails for $165 for a top and $120 for a bottom–has ‘become a much sought after bikini.'”

The pricey bikinis, worn in a number of editorials, as well as by celebrities like Heidi Klum and Cara Delevingne, are known for their amazing attention-to-detail and stunning bohemian design are obviously of the highest quality. Not to mention, they are ultimately a product of Ipek Irgit’s, the brand’s founder and creative director, intellectual property.

“Irgit obtained federal copyright protection for the bikini design in December 2014, making Kiini the ‘sole and exclusive owner to all right, title and interest in and to the copyright to the design,'” according to The Fashion Law.

“The brand alleges that in addition to enjoying federal copyright protection, it has developed trade dress rights, as ‘the purchasing public has come to associate the distinct Kiini trade dress with Kiini, and Kiini trade dress has achieved secondary meaning.'”

The trade dress at hand?

“[It] consists of: ‘1) a triangle profile bikini; 2) a distinctive, rectangular crochet pattern that borders the edges of the bikini; 3) the rectangular geometric pattern is doubled at the bottom edge of the bikini top, and the top edge of the bikini bottom; 4) bright color blocking resulting from a woven interlaced pattern of contrasting colored and textured material, specifically elastic and crochet yarn; and, 5) the bikini top’s upright triangle profile and the bikini bottom’s upside down triangle profile,'” according to The Fashion Law.

“For the uninitiated, trade dress extends to the total image of a product and can be based on shape, size, color, texture and graphics. In order to be eligible for trade dress protection, a design must serve as a non-functional identifier of source.”

Furthermore, “per Kiini, the triangle designs featured on the bathing suit at issue are in no way functional and that ‘the only reason to copy the Kiini trade dress is to attempt to trade off its goodwill and draw sales away from Kiini. This is exactly what [Victoria’s Secret] has unfairly and unlawfully done here.'”

Unsurprisingly, this is not Victoria’s Secret’s first rodeo. In 2012 the California-born, Ohio-based lingerie retailer was sued by Zephyrs, a hosiery supplier, for selling shoddy versions of their designs.

“Zephyrs filed a complaint in federal court in Ohio charging the lingerie behemoth with using images of its products on packaging and in-store product displays, while selling a cheaper version of the product inside,” according to The Huffington Post.

“In a nutshell, Victoria’s Secret used to sell Zephyrs’ Italian-made hosiery, but cut ties with them, switched to a Canadian supplier and allegedly didn’t change images or text on the packaging, except for adding a ‘Made In Canada.’ In addition to the $15 million for breach of contract, Zephyrs is also seeking “corrective advertising” and a recall of the accused products.”

The parties settled out of court for an undisclosed amount and “mutually agreed to dismiss the claims and counterclaims with prejudice,” according to The Fashion Law.

More recently, in 2015, Victoria’s Secret began copy-catting Triangl, another upscale swimwear brand. The distinct sporty swimsuits feature thick black lines that separate blocks of bold colors. Via social media platforms like Twitter, The Fashion Law then went on to explain that Australia-based Triangl is the one of world’s most-copied swimwear brands.

Flipping through Victoria’s Secret’s catalogs or strolling through a brick-and-mortar store, nearly anyone in the fashion or retail industries will notice the company frequently knocks-off designs from high-end brands like Kiini, Triangl and Gooseberry Intimates, a world-class French lingerie label.

“Kiini goes on to bolster its claim by stating that it is not the only one who noticed the similarities between its designs and the Victoria’s Secret copies. According to Kiini’s complaint, ‘several discerning customers have generated electronic content posted on popular social media, referring to the Victoria’s Secret copy-infringing design, and stating: ‘totally Kinii [sic] knock off,’ ‘Kiini copiers,’ and ‘Victoria’s Secret knock off Kiini,'” writes The Fashion Law.

“The complaint continues on to note that the similarities between its design and the Victoria’s Secret copy gave rise to actual confusion amongst consumers and offered evidence that consumers ‘queried on photos’ of the Victoria’s Secret copy, asking: ‘Is this a Kiini swimsuit or a Victoria’s Secret?’ Victoria’s Secret allegedly ignored the customer comments ‘chiding it for stealing the Kiini design, and they continue to intentionally market and sell their imitations.'”

Despite the number of copyright- and patent- based lawsuits Victoria’s Secret has faced, it seems the company is not slowing down its infringing design procedures. However, The Fashion Law makes an interesting point regarding the company’s practices:

“Interestingly, in the time since [Kiini] filed suit, Victoria’s Secret has folded its swimwear division entirely to focus exclusively on lingerie and loungewear.”