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.'”

Exploring the garment gap: why high fashion brands sell more accessories than clothes

If you take a walk on any college campus, you will notice one thing for certain: a plethora of young women who tote designer handbags and trek in name-brand shoes, yet sport low-end loungewear in terms of clothing. And, it is no accident that a large percentage of young women dress this way. Their style, or lack thereof, is evidence of the garment gap: the phenomenon in which luxury clothing brands sell exponentially more accessories than actual garments.

“For me [producing every single look from the runway for retail] is absolutely necessary,” Dries Van Noten told The Talks in 2015.

Per The Fashion Law, the Belgian designer’s sentiment “sheds light on his ongoing resistance to conforming to a larger practice in the fashion industry,” i.e., “brands’ reliance on the sales of non-runway–and in many cases, non-garment–goods to derive the majority of their profits.”

There is no question that many big-name designers (think: Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent) sell more handbags, shoes, even makeup and fragrance than they do clothing. In fact, “leather goods represent over 50 percent of the €7.9 billion that the conglomerate’s luxury division earned in revenue for the 2015 fiscal year,” while “ready-to-wear accounted for only 16 percent,” according to The Fashion Law.

“At Louis Vuitton–by far LVMH’s most valuable and recognizable brand, accounting for no less than one-third of total group sales and almost half of its profit–bags play a significant role,” The Fashion Law Continues.

“[Louis Vuitton’s] current roster of bags and related accessories includes upwards of 850 products,” while “shop-able womenswear collections consist of just over 380 products.”

To anyone with fair reasoning skills, it may seem pretty pointless, for lack of a better term, for luxury fashion brands to design clothes anymore. After all, both the amount of effort and the cost of putting together just one fashion show are extremely high. But, high fashion has never been logical or practical–quite the opposite, in fact. The Fashion Law lists two major reasons high-fashion brands continue to show garments on the runway, despite the fact they never make the transition to retail:

“The first [is] that runway garments are simply not meant to represent marketable items but instead, serve a different purpose.”

“One could argue that modern day couture and ready-to-wear shows, in many cases, are more akin to large scale marketing events for brands–for the purpose of enabling and/or maintaining lucrative licensing deals–than buying opportunities for clients.”

When you think this through, it actually makes a lot of sense in today’s society. Fashion shows once served as buying opportunities for clients, as The Fashion Law states, but today, Fashion shows are more like pseudo-events. That is, they exist purely for publicity.

Chanel Fall/Winter 2017/2018 at Paris Fashion Week, March 2017 [source: Fashionisers]
“Over-the-top shows serve as an opportunity for brands to market themselves as luxury fashion brands,” The Fashion Law continues, bringing us to the second reason.

“The second reason centers on the tactic of putting runway garments on the back-burner in favor of brands more strongly pushing runway accessories and derivatives thereof–namely, bags and sometimes, shoes, [as well as] watered down garments, as these have proven to be key sources of income for brands.”

Plainly, this means clothes just aren’t selling for most high-end designers.

“For luxury brands, it is about licensing and handbags with nearly everything else taking the form of marketing,” according to The Fashion Law.

Thanks to Paris-based brands like Saint Laurent and Vetements, “the most recent rise of ‘it’ items…are not limited to bags.” Ultimately, when it comes to Saint Laurent, you think biker jackets, not purses. And, when it comes to Vetements, you think hoodies, sweats and activewear–definitely not handbags.

“Hoodies, bomber jackets, statement jeans and other eye-catching garments have taken center stage in street style shots, in Gucci stores, in editorials and elsewhere.”

But, this is a rarity and, not to mention, an extremely new phenomenon in the fashion industry.

“Most runway pieces never get produced. They’re marketing exercises. The legacy brands aren’t in the fashion business anymore. They’re selling handbags and lipstick,” Cameron Silver, founder of Decades, the posh Los Angeles vintage clothing store, told The Daily Beast last year.

Saint Laurent Fall/Winter 2017/2018 at Paris Fashion Week, February 2017 [source: Fashionisers]
“According to a report released by Exane BNP Paribas, accessories– namely, handbags–dominate in the luxury market. They represent one of the few categories with high sales densities and full-price sell-through rates,” according to The Fashion Law.

“As of 2016, they account for almost 30 percent of the total global luxury market, up from just 18 percent in 2003.”

So, why isn’t high fashion selling?

Silver has an answer: “Luxury brands have alienated the luxury customer.”

“Bloggers and celebrities, who either borrow or get clothes free, have replaced paying customers in the hearts, minds and front rows of fashion’s nabobs,” according to The Daily Beast.

Blogger Jetset Justine carries a Neverfull by Louis Vuitton and wears sunglasses by Ray-Ban [source: jetsetjustine.com]
“Runway clothes are made for magazines or loans,” Silver continues.

“Customers are low on the totem pole and they’re starting to rebel. It started in the mid-’90s with the red carpet and celebrities. Who wants to pay $250,000 for a couture dress they’ve seen loaned to some actress six months earlier?”

But, it’s not only couture that is failing to sell. Fast fashion has also taken its toll on ready-to-wear sales.

“Thanks to the Internet, [ready-to-wear] is also now instantly over-exposed,” writes The Daily Beast.

“By the time it’s in stores, it looks tired,” says Silver.

“The quirkiness of luxury, the artisanal experience, has largely been lost.”

Bloggers Chiara Ferragni and Aimee Song, among others, sit front row at Tommy Hilfiger’s Fall 2015 fashion show [source: runwaynewsroom.tommy.com]

6 problems new media causes in the fashion industry

New media (including blogs) and social media (think: Instagram, Snapchat) without a doubt have a huge impact on the fashion industry. From the way we read magazines to who’s sitting front row at the hottest fashion shows, a lot has changed in tandem with new media’s rise–and not all of it is for the better, either.

Many industry professionals and fashion gurus yearn for the days when fashion was about art, talent and innovation; instead, they are left with a bleak world based on ads, sales and consumerism. This phenomenon affects not only the way the world sees the industry, but the scope of the industry itself, in six distinct ways.

Depp and Lagerfeld on the Chanel Couture Spring 2017 runway on January 24 [source: popsugar.com.au]
Nepotism: Nepotism is prevalent in just about every facet of the fashion industry, but it is most obvious when it comes to models, both on the runway and in print. World class designers, such as Chanel’s creative director Karl Lagerfeld, tend to favor the children of celebrities over models who have made a name in the industry for themselves. Bella Hadid (daughter of Yolanda Hadid and David Foster), Kendall Jenner (daughter of Kris Kardashian and Bruce Jenner) and Lily Rose Depp (daughter of singer-songwriter Vanessa Paradis and actor Johnny Depp) all served as Lagerfeld’s muse on the Chanel runway during the recent Spring 2017 couture show in Paris. Depp, 17, who closed the show in an ornate tulle gown, even walked arm-in-arm with Lagerfeld as she descended down the runway. Additionally, other celebrity children, like Bella Hadid’s older sister Gigi, and Hailey Baldwin, daughter of actor Stephen Baldwin, appear on numerous runways and print ads every season, causing traditional–and arguably more talented–models to be pushed aside.

Pay-for-play on the red carpet: Per The Fashion Law, celebrity stylists and their A-list clientele receive large sums of money from designers seeking red carpet recognition. With award show season in full-swing, these stylists receive “anywhere between $30,000 and $50,000” per event, while the celebrities themselves can receive upwards of $100,000, according to Jessica Paster, who has dressed Cate Blanchett, Emily Blunt, Miranda Kerr, Sandra Bullock and Rachel McAdams, among others. But, American lawyer and voice behind The Fashion Law Julie Zerbo does not take these so-called “ambassadorships” between designers and celebrities lightly. In fact, she states, “…it is important for advertising brands to think critically about whether a connection between the product (a dress or necklace, for instance) and its endorser (the celebrity) is material; whether consumers would understand that that endorser has been compensated for his or her endorsement; and whether a material connection disclosure needs to be made and how.” Furthermore, “…endorsements that have come about as a result of a connection between the endorser and the underlying brand without proper disclosure are violations of the FTC Act,” according to Zerbo, while “a misrepresentation is ‘material’ if it is likely to affect consumers’ buying choices.”

[source: harpersbazaar.com]
Lack of innovation in design: While the most coveted designs were once the intricate, handmade ones that took hours upon hours to assemble and often had to be custom ordered, that is no longer the case. As exhibited by Dior’s Spring 2017 ready-to-wear collection, the most popular pieces are now synonymous with the most Instagram-able ones. A simple white t-shirt reading “WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS” stole the show, made subsequent headlines, flooded social media feeds all over the world and gained even more esteem when it was worn by superstars Natalie Portman and Rihanna rocked it off the runway. A similar t-shirt by Gucci, which retails for nearly $600, came to fame on the backs several bloggers and Instagram influencers–We Wore What’s Danielle Bernstein and newcomer Alicia Roddy, to name a few–who’ve worn it throughout the past few months, as well.

The democratization of fashion: The fashion industry, which used to be comprised of elites, is more accessible than ever. Thanks to fast fashion, more and more people are able to participate in runway trends at the expense of sweatshop workers in developing countries, as well as the global environment. Bloggers and social media influencers post snapshots and videos from their front row seats at the hottest fashion shows, while magazines such as Vogue publish free online content for all to read, increasing the demand for fast fashion. Similarly, high end designers seem to be in a never-ending worldwide competition to create the most buzz-worthy clothes, which has caused an extreme decrease in the quality and innovation of their work over the last five years.

Fashion shows that are no longer about the fashion: Instead of attending shows to actually see the designs, industry insiders (and outsiders!) seek invitations so that they can be photographed in the front row or spotted outside. The front row was once reserved for Anna Wintour (Editor-in-Chief of Vogue) and company; now reality stars such as Kim Kardashian-West and big name bloggers such as Chiara Ferragni of the Blonde Salad sit front row for the likes of Tommy Hilfiger and Jeremy Scott–some even sit alongside Wintour and co. They come to shows toting their smart phones in order to post photos of designs almost as instantly as they debut. At a given fashion show, followers can count on a handful of bloggers and influencers to Snapchat the entire event.

Gross violation of FTC regulations: Gross violation of Federal Trade Commission regulations is undoubtedly the most widespread dilemma currently facing the fashion industry. Countless bloggers, YouTube stars and social media influencers fail to disclose sponsored content on their respective platforms, misleading millions of consumers regularly–in fact, it seems there is a new culprit every week or so. In an attempt to come off as more authentic to their thousands, and sometimes millions, of followers, bloggers such as Natalie Suarez (known throughout the blogosphere as Natalie Off Duty) and Aimee Song (Song of Style) intentionally fail to disclose content paid for by fashion and beauty brands such Lord & Taylor and Laura Mercier, according to Zerbo. Influencers like the Kardashians and Jenners have also come under fire for posting misleading social media content sponsored by brands such as Balmain, Calvin Klein, Inc., Estée Lauder, Inc., Karl Lagerfeld™, MANGO, Mint Swim, MISBHV, Puma, Revlon (for Sinful Colors) and Roberto Cavalli S. P. A., according to Zerbo. While some bloggers and influencers occasionally include a #spon or #sp to their posts, it is often hidden in the middle or the end of a wordy caption. An FTC-approved disclosure, according to Zerbo, includes #ad or Ad: (not #spon or #sp) at the beginning, and video posts call for disclosure to be said out loud or displayed on screen early on.

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.