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.'”

Fast fashion retailers up prices without forgoing unethical practices

Competition among fast fashion retailers has led stores like Forever 21 and Zara to increase prices without cutting back on their shady, inhumane and downright dirty design and production practices, according to The Fashion Law.

“Additionally, [thanks to] the influx and success of other similarly situated web-based retailers like Nasty Gal, Missguided and Pixie Market, the most longstanding fast fashion retailers, such as H&M, Forever 21 and Zara, are being forced to up the ante in order to attract new customers and to hang on to the ones they already have.”

This has caused fast fashion retailers to stock their shelves, both in-store and online, with higher priced goods. Stores known for their cheaply made and cheaply priced versions (i.e., copies) of runway trends now stock $70 trousers and $60 sweaters, without changing the unethical and harmful methods with which they are produced.

Adding variety to their garments in terms of price, quality and, in some cases, brand, The Fashion Law continues, helps fast fashion retailers keep up with competition. Some even stock certain pieces on Revolve.com and other non-fast fashion e-commerce websites.

Alexa Chung wearing Topshop at Topshop Unique’s Fall/Winter 2015 show [source: Who What Wear]
“Another theory centers on the fact that influencers–whether it be Alexa Chung, who has been a proponent of Topshop for years, Olivia Palermo, who is a fan of Zara or Kendall and Kylie Jenner, who have been spotted in Forever 21 and Nasty Gal garments, and have fronted their own collection for PacSun–have increased demand for street brands, thereby driving up prices,” according to The Fashion Law.

In short, it seems high fashion is not as cool or desirable as it once ways. The more young consumers see social media startlets like Kendall and Kylie Jenner shopping–and designing!–fast fashion, the more likely they are to shop fast fashion themselves. Thanks to Kendall Jenner and co., buying cheap is trendy again, and fast fashion’s accessibility ensures young people will keep consuming it.

“One major factor [in the rise of fast fashion prices] has been this real push globally by some of the fashion industry’s most influential bloggers and fashion editors, who have said to the world, ‘it’s OK to mix and match,’” says Simon Lock, owner and CEO of The Lock Group and the pioneering force behind Mercedes-Benz Australia Fashion Week.

“It’s OK to wear a Chloe top with a pair of Zara or H&M jeans. With that has come a certain amount of prestige that is then associated with these fast fashion brands and as a result, consumers are willing to pay more for it.”

Lock is not alone in believing this theory. In fact, it is an idea he has in common with Anna Wintour, esteemed Editor-in-Chief of Vogue magazine.

Bercu on the cover of Wintour’s first Vogue, November 1988 [source: Vogue]
“[Wintour’s] first-ever Vogue cover, from the November 1988 issue, featured model Michaela Bercu in a Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele-styled look of a haute couture Christian Lacroix jacket and stonewashed Guess jeans,” according to The Fashion Law.

The Christian Lacroix jacket, Wintour revealed in 2012, came with a matching skirt. But, Bercu gained a little weight prior to her photoshoot with Vogue–she had been on vacation at home in Israel–so the skirt did not fit her.

“It was so unlike the studied and elegant close-ups that were typical of Vogue’s covers back then, with tons of makeup and major jewelry. This one broke all the rules. Michaela wasn’t looking at you, and worse, she had her eyes almost closed. Her hair was blowing across her face. It looked easy, casual, a moment that had been snapped on the street, which it had been, and which was the whole point,” Wintour continued, reflecting on the issue on Vogue’s 120th anniversary.

“I had just looked at that picture and sensed the winds of change. And you can’t ask for more from a cover image than that.”

It seems Wintour was ahead of her time.

What is fast fashion & why should you care?

This is the post excerpt.

Twenty-five years ago, the thought of clothing being disposable was foreign to most Americans. Now, a trip to the mall (or a virtual trip to an online shop) every time styles change is as common as a trip to the corner store or local coffee stand. Enter: fast fashion.

Fast fashion, an industry-coined term, refers to any inexpensive–and dirt cheap–poorly made copy of a runway trend that goes out of style almost as quickly as it comes into style. In turn, fast fashion is sold at retail chain stores like Zara and Forever 21. [Source: LEAF.tv]

The garments are constructed haphazardly, in hazardous conditions in developing countries such as Bangladesh, which tend to have looser labor laws and can pay their workers (the equivalent of) just pennies a day. As Elizabeth Cline, author of Overdressed states, cheap fashion has a high cost on both the environment and human life.

The frequency with which Americans buy clothes is higher than ever. This is thanks to fast fashion. Americans once spent their money on clothing much more wisely; they bought far less, but the quality of their clothing was far superior than the quality of most clothing on the market today. And, most of it was made on U.S. territory in Manhattan’s—you guessed it—Garment District. Now, the Garment District is full of restaurants, hotels, yoga studios, bookstores and just about anything besides textiles.

Inside Mood Fabrics [source: sideways.nyc]
Marked by faded advertisements, manufacturing-related businesses in the Garment District, such as Mood Fabrics (as seen on Project Runway), are difficult to find and even trickier to get to. While the mood inside Mood is peaceful, bright and of course, colorful, the route there—which includes a trip through a set of commonplace glass doors and an ambiguous elevator ride—is a different story, and one that is filled with ghosts of the Garment District’s history obstructed by 21st century businessmen and –women. According to CoStar, the high-rise in which Mood is housed, known as Bricken Arcade, is currently leased at 92.7 percent capacity, yet only 18 percent of lessees work in retail/wholesale or manufacturing.

Clothing sold in modern-day American malls comes from a much different scene than Manhattan’s Garment District. There are no briefcase-carrying, Armani-suit-clad men and women; there are only small children and women working–some may say “slaving”–in sweaty and downright dangerous and dirty conditions. They are at risk to tragedies like the May 2015 footwear factory fire in Philippines that killed nearly 80. While these foreign factories may be able to give Americans more garments for a lower monetary price, is this manufacturing strategy worth the lives it takes?

[source: thereformation.com]
Eco-friendly brands like Reformation seek to combat this global crisis by constructing their garments responsibly in downtown Los Angeles from green materials. In fact, the brand is so transparent that their carbon footprint–which is measured by the sustainability research team using the RefScale–can easily be found on its website. They are a part of what American lawyer and fashion writer Julie Zerbo calls the “slow fashion” industry.

Following Reformation’s 2009 launch, blogger-turned-designer Rumi Neely created her namesake brand Are You Am I in 2014, which is made entirely in downtown LA. Both these brands gained popularity through new and social media, offering hope that America’s youth may be steering away from fast fashion in favor of more sustainable and prosocial practices.