So…I was flipping through the latest issue of Essence Magazine this morning when I ran across this shocking ad:
My first thought was “Wow! Marlies Dekkers is advertising in Essence. That’s new.” Then I looked at the opposite page and saw the following text “Cacique: Exclusively at Lane Bryant.”
Whoa. Wait. Seriously?
Now I’m not naive. I know copying happens all the time in the fashion industry. In fact, it’s how the larger (and, often less creative brands) come up with their “new” collections each season, but this was appalling…not only because it’s so blatant (those chest straps are a Marlies Dekkers’ signature), but because the company behind Cacique, Lane Bryant, had the chutzpah to use such a well-known design in a national ad campaign. This isn’t “inspired by.” It’s a near 100% facsimile.
Like I said, I know how rampant copying is in the fashion industry. And, though it’s not the most popular position within the industry, I actually don’t believe in copyright protection for fashion designers…mostly because there’s no way I can see my favorite independent designers (all of whom are younger and have fewer resources than the big brands) staying in business if that kind of legislation were enacted. It’d just be too expensive (and risky!) for anyone to start a fashion line anymore.
But that said, it really gets my goat when a large corporation, with so many resources at their disposal, deliberately undercuts an independent brand. And it shows just how empowered these larger brands feel when they can not only steal someone’s trademark idea but also advertise with it, and know that nothing’s going to happen because of it.
Now, I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite. This is not a position I’ve had the entire time I’ve written this blog. And if you’ve been reading me for awhile, you know that I used to do fairly frequent Look for Less features, which were in many cases (I’m sad to say) outright knock-off promotions.
But one of the things I’ve started doing in the last year, inspired by designers like Piper Ewan and Between the Sheets and Hopeless Lingerie, is take a closer look at where my undergarments are coming from. And, please don’t take this like I’m guilt-tripping anyone (because I hate it when people do that to me), but rip-off companies like Cacique harm the entire lingerie industry.
I want to talk about all this in a more detailed blog post later on, but the gist of it is that independent brands already start really far behind these big companies. We already know they don’t have the investment capital and the corporate infrastrucure and the PR team and the advertising dollars, and all that.
But, behind the scenes, many independent designers (because they work with much smaller volumes than a large national chain) also don’t have the negotiating power a big brand does. And going even further, many indie brands want to manufacture and produce ethically, so that very often means not going with the cheapest factory. And, of course, since these brands can’t sell their products at a loss, some of those costs are passed along in the price tag to us, the consumers.
But if a big brand is not only able to avoid the actual work of doing a unique design but also able to get a much lower price to manufacture, well, that makes it hard for independents to stay in business. Because the playing field just isn’t fair. And goodness knows, I don’t want to live in a world of plain and boring t-shirt bras which is all many of the big brands seem able to come up with on their own (look for the full details of that in my Lingerie Market Report later on this week).
Anyway, I just wanted to put this out here. I see this as the beginning of an on-going and hopefully long-term conversation on the blog that explores the less sexy (but still important) side of the lingerie industry. I really see TLA as being about empowering customers to make the rights decisions for themselves (because knowledge is power), and I think exploring where our lingerie comes from, who makes it, and if it’s being made in a way that resonates with your own personal ethics is a valuable discussion to have.
What do you think of Cacique’s knock-off? How do you feel about lingerie knock-offs in general? I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments.