Fashion Piracy Paradox

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.

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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.

Innovation lc
Diffusion of innovation curve – Rogers, E.

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.

More about trends: Trend forecasting SS17 Bomber jacket

Trend forecasting

Thought

Trend forecasting is an are of fashion business that in my opinion isn’t appreciate as much as it should be, in Finland. Through trend forecasting services, businesses can find the strategic window for their business endeavors. Fashion is a business driven by change and knowing where that change is headed is a key element of surviving in the business.

Trend forecasters don’t decide what will be the trends for a season. They analyze the current zeigeist, how it’s going to develop in the future and how it will be translated into trends. Consumers feel inclined to buy apparel that somehow connects with the zeitgeist (Blumer 1969). This is the basis of trend formation. Trend is determined by what the majority of population buys and wears.

In modern day, trends can be formed by three different theories: trickle-down, trickle-up and trickle-across. Trickle-up is the oldest one of the theories. In trickle-up, trends are first adopted by the high social classes and spread there through the different social classes, until it reaches the low social class. In trickle-up, the trends are first introduced by the low social classes and start to spread from there to other social classes. In trickle-across, the trend is simultaneously introduced to and adapted by all social classes. The affects of trickle-across can be seen in mass-marketing; products are manufactured and marketed for different social groups simultaneously.

Trends

Before the birth of ready-to-wear industry, trends spread by trickle-down theory. This was the time when fashion houses dictated the trends of the season. But the birth of ready-to-wear industry created more factors into fashion business. Up until the 70s, trends mainly spread by trickle-down, which made trend forecasting easier. Nowadays trends can arise from anywhere. This has created more challenges for trend forecasting.

As trends can arise from anywhere, observing the major fashion houses newest collections isn’t enough to determine the trends of the future seasons. Besides, whether a fashion house’s collection succeeds is determined by how well it fits the zeitgeist. This was why Dior’s New Look was so successful in the 50’s. Dior’s New Look fit the needs of women to feel feminine again; the fashion had been regulated due to shortage and the appropriateness of war time.

In order to make accurate trend forecasts, one needs to understand the zeitgeist. Which is difficult as the trend forecaster needs to objectively analyze the spirit of their own time. Understanding the dominating events, social groups, ideals, attitudes and technology help the forecasters understand the zeitgeist (Brannon 2012). Comparing these factors to past zetgeists can help understand how the fashion will develop in the future. Trend forecasts spend their time collecting information about the developments in politics, fashion industry, technology, economy and other fields, analyzing the deeper meanings behind those developments and translating them into forecasts about future trends.

The forecasts are divided into long term and short term forecasts. Long term forecasts are aimed at seasons over 2 years away. Businesses use these forecasts for decisions regarding re-positioning, re-branding, extending product lines and planning new stores. Short term forecasts are are aimed at seasons under 2 years away and are used for inventory management, marketing, product development and product positioning. As the seasons draw closer, the long term forecasts become more distinctive with the additional data and transform into short term forecasts.

Trends aren’t just limited to fashion business. The zeitgeist affects the buying behavior of consumers across all categories. Through the help of trend forecasters businesses can expect the changes in the market and react accordingly.

Sources:

Blumer, H. 1969. Fshion: from class differentiation to collective selection. International encycloperdia of the social sciences. 341-345. New York: Macmillian

Brannon, E. 2012. Fashion forecasting. 3rd edition. New York: Fairchild Books

SS17 Bomber jacket

One of the trend items for this season is the bomber jacket. Especially in the shade of dusty green, pink or peach. While shopping, I noticed that pretty much every retail store in Jyväskylä carries a version of the jacket in their selection. Customers can go through different stores looking for a jacket with the design, material and details that fit their needs – and price range.

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SS17 Bomber jacket – from left upper row to right bottom: H&M, VILA, Gina Tricot, BikBok & Cubus

Originally, the bomber jacket was designed as work wear for aviators. The jackets were designed as warm and functional outerwear the aviators could comfortably wear in the cockpit. The bomber jacket’s design evolved as new needs were discovered and new, man-made materials were developed. Consideration of water resistance, battle situations and functionality created new elements to be considered in the designs. The first bomber jackets used leather and wool as they were seen strong and warm materials, but through the years the designs became lighter.

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1920’s bomber jacket – photo from Gentleman’s Gazette

During the 50’s the designs especially started to change. Up until then the bomber jackets were strictly military wear, but during the 50’s consumers started to adapt them in their everyday life. Because of this, designs that suited consumer needs were developed. Since consumers weren’t engaging in air battles, the designs adapted for consumers didn’t have to be as functional as the designs meant for military use. This allowed for a wider selection of materials to be used.

From 60’s to 80’s the bomber jacket became a trend item for the first time. It was especially adapted by the punk movement an the skin heads. Ironically, they used it in their rebellious looks – a jacket that was originally designed for the military. The bomber jacket also became a symbol of rebellion in the Asian fashion scene. Because of this the symbol of rebellion is attached to the bomber jacket.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle punk movement
Punk movement – photo from Flickr

The current trend designs are more feminine. For the last few seasons, trend forecasts have featured the elements of gender boundaries fading, appreciation of the past, recycling, and meaningful designs. In order for consumers to make a purchase decision the elements and meanings behind a product are emphasized. Products need to “do good”.

The use of faded colours in the current designs is a reference to the trend of recycling. The use of faded colours in designs can be seen widely in current retail selections. Especially faded green and pink. This can be referenced to Pantone’s Colour of the Year for last year and this year. Though, Pantone doesn’t dictate what colours are trendy for a season; they analyze and forecast what colours represent the zeitgeist. Same with trend forecasts. Last year, for the first time, Pantone’s Colour of the Year consisted of two colours – as a representation of the fading gender boundaries.

The mixture of the historically masculine bomber jacket and traditionally feminine colours gives a reference to the fading gender boundaries in today’s society. The resurface of a design that has a strong historical background also gives reference to the “meaningful designs” trend forecast. Consumers attach meanings and ideas to the design. Because of the bomber jackets history with the military and the punk movement, meanings of both rebellion and conformity can be attached to it.

Note: this is my analysis of the SS17 bomber jacket trend. I’m not a product developer nor a trend forecaster. So, see this as an outsider’s view. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Fashion leaders

Fashion leader is a term greatly associated with the forming of trends. Fashion leader is an individual whose fashion choices and opinions about trends affect the public’s fashion choices and opinions. When an individual sees a clothing item on a person whose opinions they value, they feel more inclined to buy the item for themselves. Of course, a fashion leader has a broader reach than your sister or a friend.

A great example of a fashion leader is Queen Victoria. When she married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840, she chose to wear a white wedding dress. This was unusual at the time. Most wedding dresses were pale blue, as it complimented the admired, pale skin. After the public saw her in a white wedding gown, the demand for white wedding dresses sky rocketed. The modern day white wedding dress culture of the western world is credited to Queen Victoria, though she wasn’t the first one to wear a white wedding dress.

Queen Victoria’s wedding dress. She set the fashion for white bridal gowns, which has continued to this day.:
Queen Victoria’s wedding dress – photo from Pinterest

Royalty

Queen Victoria isn’t the only royal fashion leader. Royalty has an image of class and sophistication making it easy for them to become something yearned by others. Princess Diana was very influential in the 80’s up until her death. She was considered youthful, modern and classy with her outfits. Another good example of a modern day royal fashion leader is the Duchess of Cambridge. The duchess and princess Diana are often compared to each other.

Political figures

The Kennedys and the Obamas both represent political figures that have become fashion leaders. Hats were an essential in men’s wear up until JFK chose not to wear one to his inauguration, and Jackie’s pillbox hats were iconic. The Obamas have been actively involved in social media making them seem friendly and approachable modern day political figures. Michelle’s outfit choices are frequently praised by the media.

Designers

The Parisian designers used to dictate fashion, as everything was made to order. Dressmakers would go to Paris to see the newest designs of the season. The Parisian designers would sell sample pieces to these dressmakers at a higher price, as they knew that the designs were bought to be copied.

As the ready to buy clothes started emerging, the influence of the designers started to fade. These days, trends can start from anywhere. No one decides what is trendy or what is going to be the “it”-product of the season. The looks and designs that are adapted by the consumers become trends. But marketers try to determine what designs and looks will have demand through colour and trend forecasts.

The designers remain fashion leaders even if their role isn’t as impactful as it used to be. They create looks for the consumers to judge. If the designer manages to capture the zeitgeist in their designs, it can become an instant hit. Good examples of these are Coco Channel’s little black dress and the New Look by Christian Dior.

Christian Dior's New Look, 1947 #happybirthdaydior:
The New Look by Christian Dior – photo from Pinterest

Models

Before 1980’s models were just mannequins wearing a dress. But Nowadays the models themselves have become sought after fashion leaders. They create an image for themselves that brands use to enforce their own brand image. Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista were one of the first supermodels, paving the way for the modern-day celebrity status of models. Good examples of current models as fashion leaders are Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner.

Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner street style - out and about shopping in plain shirts and high waisted jeans!:
Gigi Hadid & Kendall Jenner – photo from Pinterest

Actors & Actresses

Actors and actresses have had an influence on fashion since the movie industry began. The sculptured platinum blond hair of the 1930’s was made popular by actresses like Jean Harlow; the hair was sculptured and dyed that way so that the cameras of the time could capture it clearly in the moving pictures. The Sabrina neckline was made popular by Audrey Hepburn. She wore a dress designed by Givenchy in the movie Sabrina with the mentioned neckline.

The little black dress by Hubert de Givenchy that Audrey Hepburn wore in "Sabrina," with Humphrey and William Holden:
Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina – photo from Pinterest

Celebrities

Celebrities in general have a great influence on other people’s opinions about trends. Actresses were the first celebrities to achieve a fashion leader status, but as the entertainment and marketing businesses grew, the variety of different kinds of celebrities expanded. Musicians, singers, tv-stars, hosts and celebrity figures have their audiences that they appeal to. The emergence of social media has created new kinds of celebrities: social media stars.

No-fashion

Fashion isn’t something that everyone is interested in. These individuals dress in what they feel comfortable in regardless of the situation. But figures who don’t care about fashion can still become fashion leaders. They create a large audience for themselves through their efforts and are considered to have attributes to seek after. These individuals include developers, engineers, writers and company owners. Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of Facebook is an example of no-fashion fashion leader.