Piracy and copying are something that have always been present in fashion. Piracy is the act of making or selling a look-alike product or service bearing a fake trademark. In copying however, other designers copy the original designer’s looks, modify them, and sell them under their own brand name. In order for a designer to copy another designer’s look and sell it under their own brand name, there needs to be enough differences between the designs as not to have any copyright issues. The digital age has made copying easier; due to high quality photos and the communication network provided by the internet, a design can be copied and released to the market within a day of it being revealed by its creator. This makes competition tougher for high quality fashion designers; as they reveal their selections before the selling season, fast fashion retailers can copy them and distribute them to the market long before the original design. This not only steals the clients of the original designer but also tarnishes the image of originality the design had.
When it comes to piracy of luxury products you can often use the word brand piracy. The term brand piracy can be used when a product is made to copy another, well-known brand. The goal of brand piracy is to make the consumer mistake the pirated product for a brand product and so gain some of the brand product’s market share. Piracy is a diverse industry. It consists of full scale factories as well as backstreet sweatshops. In order to make their pirated products as authentic as possible, counterfeiters can even bribe employees of companies with valuable brands. That way they can get manufacturing molds or master discs of the originals.
Depending on the level of the pirated product it can either be sold at the same price as the original or it can make use of the original product’s marketing by looking like it. In the latter, when a consumer sees a cheap knock off of a brand product the images associated with the brand product can be associated with the knock off as well. Thus creating a positive image for the knock-off. Identifying between the original and pirated products can be hard. Consumers might be under the impression that the product they just bought for the price of a brand products is of high quality, when it is only a knock off. Because of this, the bad quality and experiences associated with the use of the knock-off will be associated with the original brand. Buying knock off products can also be harmful for the consumers. The chemicals used and the conditions the products were made in can make the products extremely harmful.
Piracy in fashion industry is often referred to as fashion’s piracy paradox. Piracy and copying can be harmful for the designers who spend tons of time to create something unique, just to have it sold as a cheaper knock off within the same day it’s revealed. However, without copying trends would never be set. Trends are a driving force in fashion industry creating revenue. For a trend to be born, the majority of consumers need to adopt it. The adaptation process begins with the innovators and early adapters. They are the daring people who seek to be unique and the observers of emerging trends. They form 15% of the population and are referred to as fashion leaders (read more here). When observing from the trickle-down theory’s point of view, they are the ones adopting new designs from high-end fashion designers and retailers. If the new look is found appealing, other retailers start to make their knock-offs of it. They are produced with cheaper materials, lower quality and lower cost. They are produced to fit the demands of fashion followers; the 85% of the population consisting of early majority, late majority and laggards.
The peak is the point when the largest amount of the population have adopted the design. After the peak, the fashion leaders start to move on to new looks as the design has lost it’s uniqueness. This is the start of the obsolescence of the design. It’s slowly becoming old news and the population is moving on to other designs. At this point the look is seen in the selections of cheap retail stores. While the fashion leaders are moving on to new designs, they are starting out new cycles in fashion continuing the essential move in fashion business.
Through piracy and copying consumers get more accustomed to the design. The copied looks created for different market segments make it easier for the consumers as a whole to adopt a design. The adaptation of the copied looks drives more sales for the original looks as well; the design becoming a trend creates more demand for it in the original design’s consumer segment. Fashion leaders and followers aren’t divided by consumer segments. Meaning that more consumers in the original designers consumer segment are ready to adapt the design as it has more visibility and adopters. They’ll be looking for designs in the quality level of the original design.