Monday, May 30, 2011

Support the Independent Design Community

Readers of this blog know well my passion for handcrafted, independently-designed, quality items. Just a quick peek at my Links and you can see that I have quite a list of favourites. One of my favourite things to do is share my handmade discoveries, such as through my Thrifty365 review posts

Today on Yahoo, I came across this article that both saddened and angered me. It discusses how Urban Outfitters has shamefully stolen a wonderful idea from an independent designer.

Left: original design by Stevie Koerner
Right: design by Urban Outfitters

I do not, nor will I ever, condone the theft of ideas. There are many things one can say about intellectual property theft, but for me, it just boils down to it being a very nasty and calculating thing to do. This situation is especially repugnant to me as these chain stores have enormous legal departments to protect their interests, whilst many independent designers have very little legal recourse available to them.

As a creative person, I am often inspired by others' work, from large chain stores to independent shops to individual artists. However, I always do my very best to interpret the design and not copy. Case in point, my scissors skirt:

Original version created by Bossa Nova Baby

My version

While writing this post, I went to both Stevie's tumblr and Urban Outfitter's website. Although I could not find the necklaces on their website - one can hope that they've had an attack of conscience and taken them down - just seeing the blatantly copied design is all I needed to see. When you like someone's idea and want to market it, isn't it common sense to either buy it outright or bring them on board? This rule of thumb, I feel, applies to both independent and large businesses.

As of today, I WILL NOT:
  • Shop at Urban Outfitters or any of its sister companies, Anthropologie being the most well-known
  • Purchase any thrifted / second-hand items manufactured by these companies
  • Wear or use items manufactured by these companies
As of today, I WILL:
  • Initiate an awareness campaign to spread the word about supporting independent businesses to the best of my ability
  • Continue to support local and independently-owned businesses
  • Encourage people to support their local and independently-owned businesses
  • Encourage people to purchase handcrafted and independently-designed items.
I support independent designers!! Grab a button and show your support, too!

**The image used to make the logo was found here and is royalty-free.


MJ/Sweetwater Cloth said...

your code for the little button is totally not working for me, but I figured out how to make it work - so just a heads up to check out the code! :)

Alessa said...

Things like that make me sad, especially since big companies like Urban Outfitters certainly have the money to buy the design or a license for use from the creator.

I also take a lot of my inspiration from other sewing bloggers and sometimes from more well known companies and designers but 1. I think there's a big difference between commercial and personal use an 2. if I don't outright ask permission to copy a design, I definitely point to my inspirational sources, as do most sewing bloggers, I think...

Stephanie said...

How funny! I literally stumbled across the same U.O. article about stealing earlier today.

It seriously sucks! They basically stole EVERYTHING. Not one ounce of it was creditted it back to the original designer. They had to steal the name too??!! They really do lack creativity.

Thank you for showing this and showing awareness to it!

Debi said...

I've heard of big chain stores stealing ideas from independent designers on etsy. I am joining your campaign as I think it is just awful!!

Sewing Princess said...

I agree with you Sarah and consider it a real pity that well-known brands decide to knock-off small designers instead of making their own. Like you, however, I take inspiration from others and often the differences are very subtle. I would love to buy from those designers but often import duties or price tag make it hard for me to do. So, I take my own little hands and make the beautiful product for myself. I don't do it for a profit, yet I feel a bit uneasy.

Sarah said...

@MJ - Thanks for the heads up! Code is fixed :)

So glad to see everyone coming on board!

Stacy aka Stacybeads said...

Ugh. There is a huge difference between being inspired by someone's else's idea and blatantly ripping it off. Not to mention using an idea for personal use vs. making money from it. Plus, a huge company taking advantage of an individual person's idea is extra despicable.

Ali said...

Thanks for the thought-provoking post! That's awful that UO ripped off a small designer. You know this whole issue is so interesting, so controversial. As you and Sewing Princess have mentioned, we get so much inspiration from what we see out there.

As a home seamstress, I don't feel the need to check in with Anthropologie if I feel the desire to take my hand at pattern drafting and alteration to create something inspired by one of their frocks. In the end, it's going to be totally different anyway. But when I've been tempted to knock off something from an independent designer, I wring my hands over whether to buy it or make something else entirely. It's the problem, no? We like to make stuff. But I would never want to do that at a single person's expense.

I'll still thrift things, though, because I dig the style. Perhaps that's my compromise. Someone else has paid retail and I use the garment, sometimes cutting it up, for my own purposes. Case in point, I'm always a little ashamed to admit I love Banana Republic. Even the name itself, considering the real banana republics with the kind of clothes the brand espouses (re: social class and power and race). But in a sea of clothes in a thrift store, I'll still pluck an item out and it will be BR. Sigh. This year I bought something from their outlet. Anyway, that's a very long winded way of saying that I'm aware and though it doesn't stop my behavior it greatly, greatly limits it.

I think it all boils down to mindfulness, which clearly UO/Anthropologie rip off has no indication of. Thanks for pointing out the article!

Suzy said...

I totally agree with you and think that big companies blatantly copying independent designers and artists work is plain wrong and shouldn't be left unpunished.

At the same time, the issue of property and who copied who can be quite fierce even between independent creatives. And that can be confusing too. Have you read this article?
This can unfortunately foster "bad relationships" between creatives. As a hobbyist photographer I once had another smaller photographer accusing me of "robbing her idea" because it was a latex shoot with the same model. Coincidentally one that only models latex. What could I do? Never shoot latex?

I have to reiterate, in case someone reads this comment wrong, that I think it's unacceptablefor a big money making company to blatantly rob someone else's design, and I probably won't buy or mention their products on my blog.

Kestrel said...

Hi there! I definitely agree with your support for handmade and independent. I hate how uniform and globalised everything is becoming. Re the Etsy/Urban Outfitters story, I read an interesting piece on Regretsy, which questioned the idea of straightforward stealing by UO, suggesting that the Etsy seller was influenced by others before them:
href:"" (hope I added that link properly, not very good at this kind of thing!)

Sarah said...

@Stacy - I completely agree!

@Ali - Love your comment! I thrift brand-name labels often, as I know it will last. I confess to loving Banana Republic, too! Just as you said, being inspired to create something for personal use is entirely different than with an intent to sell.

@Suzy - Great comment! It's sad but true that bad relationships can develop :( Sounds like your photography takes you into some niche markets. So sad you had a bad experience!

@Kestrel - I agree that it's silly to suggest the seller was influenced beforehand! Thank you for the link!

Kelli said...

I've heard Urban Outfitters is one of the worst about stealing the ideas of independent artists. It's absolutely horrible. Spreading the word is the best way to help stop this, as many shoppers of these stores may not realize what they're supporting.

Sarah said...

Thank you for your great comment, Kelli!

Sølvi said...

Great post, Sarah!

I´ve heard of this too, it´s just sad when it´s so blatantly a rip off of a design idea. The whole discussion about immaterial rights has many sides, as a music professional I have to consider this every day. But I agree with you and many of the others that it is a BIG difference between sharing inspiration and design ideas amongst small scale artists, and how these big corporations puts stealing ideas into system just to earn money.