“Talent borrows, genius steal” is a statement that although attributed to many sums up the issue of rip-offs in our fashion industry today. Going through a rigorous academic system, I was always taught to give credence to borrowed ideas. In the fashion world, designs are basically stolen under from an artist and nothing can be done about it. Counterfeits (rather, counter-outfits) are produced from the real ideas and nothing can be done about it.
I was in awe one day when I saw someone on the street hawking who was apparently supposed to be wearing a Gucci shirt. Between us all, we know he can’t afford it, but he could afford a five hundred naira knock off ‘Guggi’ shirt. I know it’s not the same but that’s the point. The spelling difference makes it obvious but there are some that may not be that obvious. Has this extent of plagiarism become acceptable?
Also important is the bullying by corporate multi-nationals of smaller artists who don’t have enough financial backing to fight these companies off. They take the ideas and make them prominent. These companies become the face of someone else’s ideas. That can never be OK. It seems that this has been a norm in the fashion industry for too long because smaller companies don’t have a big enough social and financial presence to go against them. I mean, it’s their word against the big bad wolf corporate company. They are cheated out of millions of dollars.
The consumers are not in the clear of these. It seems like a lot of blame but the need for cheap clothes drives people to do a lot of things. I want to look fashionable enough but don’t want to spend a fortune on it. Gucci is a luxury brand, and luxury brand means money. So you have to choose. Alternately, the need to reach a wider target market drives flat out theft.
This also can happen on a much smaller scale. Most of these designers are trying to make their brand more known to the public and they have become permissive to street knockoffs. Some smaller rip-offs are almost always ignored but it is projected as a taboo for larger corporations. So why is it OK for smaller corporations and not for larger ones? In both instances, there is great injustice and both should never be tolerated.
These street knock offs are as offensive as the larger ones. But they are allowed to get away with it. I guess it’s because the man making a ‘Guggi’ shirt in Aba has less to offer you financially. People will always get into cases that they know they will get the most out of. Well, now we say neither case is acceptable. It is morally unethical to rip off another person’s sweat. It is known that the nature of fashion having a large consumer base makes it possible for this to always be the case. Hence, it is left for us to make individual effort to not patronize them. It is difficult but not impossible.
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Written by Nkem Ikeh
Images: mystiquejeans.com, messynessychic.com