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Smaller fashion designers say they constantly get ripped off by big brands

News   •   Jun 12, 2019 08:49 +08

A screen grab of the video interview on YouTube

Independent fashion designers often complain of bigger brands ripping off their designs. And five of them gave concrete examples in an interview with BBC of their designs being copied by big companies.

The designers include Jo Tutchener-Sharp of Scamp & Dude, Jen Manning of Willows Call, Claire Pérez of Fable Heart, Jerri Cook of Dippy Cow Nails, and Alex Tullock of Alex Kate of The Label. And they showed specific pieces of theirs that have been copied by big brands.

Jo Tutchener-Sharp of Scamp & Dude, who accused UK retailer Next of copying a design on her children's shirt, received attention after calling out the company on Instagram. In November she reached a settlement with the bigger company.

Alex Tullock, a swimwear designer from Middlesbrough, said her swimsuit design was copied by Pretty Little Thing, a UK fashion retailer. But she did not get any justice for it. She said: "All I did was put a post on Instagram. They never got back to me about it. I just didn't know what else to do about it."

"I think just the thought of approaching a solicitor, when you're a one-woman business, is terrifying," said Jerri Cook of Dippy Cow Nails, who said her nail designs were copied by Primark.

"I think that's also why some large companies target small businesses, because they know we're on our own," added Claire Pérez of Fable Heart. Pérez, who makes dress-up clothing for children, found out Boden Clothing was selling crowns that were similar to hers, complained on Instagram about it. This was followed by hundreds of comments. Boden Clothing responded by apologising to Pérez, withdrawing the item from their website, and encouraging their customers to buy the crowns from Fable Heart.

But not all big brands responded in the same way as Boden. They usually ignore complaints and attempts to name and shame them by the designers. And when push comes to shove, they have a particular legal strategy.

"When you get in to legal processes they can try and make it go so slowly that you run out of money and you're like, 'I have to stop'. But if you have got a clear-cut case you'll get that money back because the brand will pay your legal fees so you don't pay it in advance," Jo Tutchener-Sharp of Scamp & Dude said.

Usually forgoing the legal route, small designers tend to rely on the name and shame. But there is a limit to how far their message can go. But there is a rise in watchdog sites that have a wider audience and therefore more clout when they name and shame brands for picking on Creators.

Diet Prada, an Instagram account that calls out fashion brands for copying designs of smaller designers and similarities in design, seems to be a watchdog for the industry, but there is a limit to how much naming and shaming can accomplish.

The success of the Instagram account has led to the creation of imitator watchdogs such as Estée Laundry, a pun on known beauty brand Estée Lauder. Unlike Diet Prada, which deals with fashion, Estée Laundry takes aim at the beauty industry. There is even a Who's Who, called the "Diet Prada of art", and Yeezy Busta, which calls out public figures on wearing fake streetwear.

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