Original ideas, independent artists, and the plague of fast fashion
They say Twitter is where you meet the people you should be hanging with. It’s been delightfully true in my case. I hold two twitter accounts - this one, and @rosalindr, because -honestly - a lot of my straight male buddies have zero interest in my creative endeavours.
But over on the other handle, I wound up chatting with the delightful @wendybrandes about kitties. (You can surf her incredible array of beautiful objects at www.wendybrandes.com.) I have long admired not just her jewellery, but her ability to start up as an independent business. Like me, she’s an ex-journalist. And she’s got a thing for smoosh-faced kitties.
She makes me feel like a bit of a coward - rather than taking a whole plunge, I’m taking the author’s route, slowly and painfully penning a book on how you can do what I do, and selling the end results on Etsy. Making your own stuff is deeply rewarding, especially when it gets admired by others. It’s well and truly *yours*, and in a world of disposable fashion, it’s nice to have something that you’ve worked on to make your own.
That doesn’t make me immune to the high street shops, though. I just bought jeans in New York at Uniqlo because they curiously fit my curvy butt quite well. I fell in love with some winged booties at Top Shop last month in London.
I could live with the big fast-fashion chains snuggling very close to whatever the Big Huge Luxury Labels were coming out with. Remember the big lecture in The Devil Wears Prada, where boss-lady deconstructs how the heroine came to wearing a specific shade of blue? The big houses dictate the trends. It takes a few years, but eventually iterations of the looks on the runway end up in Sears in in Saskatoon.
I find knock offs in poor taste - I bought a vintage LV Speedy with a lot of wear and patina because I love the bag, but hate how hard it is to tell a real one from a fake. But, ultimately, I wasn’t too bothered either way about Vuitton going after the Canal Street Specials or Ebay for not policing sellers of fakes. Tom Ford famously shrugged that he didn’t care if he was knocked off, because the people buying knock offs would never be his clientele.
But Wendy? She’s tiny, she’s independent. Mass production may be cheap for you, but it’s hell for a small designer. I”m not sure what possessed Top Shop to rip her off, but here you have it.
Wendy’s rings (which also come in gold…) retail at $380 for the set. Amazing price for four silver rings. I love them, and was going to splurge on them with my tax return.
And here is what you can get at TopShop for $25.
Wendy herself is quite introspective about this - you can read her own post on it here - and she makes the point that design - particularly fashion - doesn’t happen in a vacuum. True enough. I’ve got a whole bookcase full of Stephen Jones, Chanel and Dior. A lot of Dior. I’m always scouring for materials and ideas. And I have looked at a Lanvin necklace and scoffed “Meh. I can do that myself. I can even do it better.” But I’ve never made a copy of anyone’s work - I have enough ideas tinkering around my addled brain, thanks - and I think it’s clear this is a *direct* rip off.
But what makes me REALLY angry is this isn’t about some shady dealer in a back alley on Canal Street ripping off a giant luxury house. This is an enormous, profitable and legitimate company ripping off a small, independent designer. If they’d done the honest thing - called her up like they do with Kate Moss and ask for a “collaboration”, they would have boosted her career and put money in her pocket. Instead, they skulked around and perhaps figured she’d never know about it.
My lovely winged booties are now tainted. I can’t bear to look at them, and I can’t help but wonder whose idea they *really* were.