Fashion Like Cultural Appropriation

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According to iconic designer Miuccia Prada, "What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language." Prada’s saying helps shape our world today because fashion is a big icon in everyone’s lives. It displays our personality. Without fashion and style many of us would look the same. In order to achieve our looks, we should thank fashion designers for putting in hard work to create these masterpieces. Their hard work goes a long way in most people’s lives, but as technology is on the rise these masterpieces are instantly stolen by other companies. We see luxury name brands sell their work for hundreds of dollars, but we also have counterfeit product selling for half the price. Stated by Casaió, Flaviána and Sánchez, “fashion is regarded as one of the most important industries since it accounts for a significant part of the worldwide economy” (1). Based on the above statement it is easy to agree that fashion is one of the main engines of worldwide economy. The constant changes and new trends stimulate new needs in production industry. Fashion business is very involved and most of the time very complicated behind closed doors. It is hard to believe that it does not have protection laws to protect one’s work. Being a fashion designer in today’s era is not an easy job. It is common practice to steel and copy someone else’s idea. Many scandals are continuously evolving in fashion industry. Forever 21 and Zara are involved in the lawsuit for copying fashion designers and selling as their own.

Designers have to care about their customers and make their ideas appealing. It is common practice for many designers to have connections to celebrities and other well recognized individuals in society. They will use any possible tricks to get their products to sell. Fashion today is a very tough subject because even though it shapes who we are it can also have a negative effect. Copy right laws and crime play a big role for plagiarism in the fashion industry.

Fashion has been changing for many years. It was first seen when people would wear animal skin as their main material for clothing. Wearing animal skin was very important to those who hunted in cold temperatures. The skin would keep them warm while they were exposed to cold weather conditions. Fashion trends were also seen in royalty setting where fashion was heavily influenced by the queen and king during the medieval era. Nobles and knights were to follow strict rules regarding what material and colors they were allowed to wear. Ever since then fashion has been changing rapidly. We see changes through each new decade. During the 1960’s it was mostly ‘hippie’ clothing, wearing tie-dye clothes with flared pants to where in the 70’s neon colors and tight clothing was more popular. From there fashion has drastically changed shaping our era and the history during those times. Even though many do not see fashion as an important aspect in their lives in today’s society what a person wears describes their rank and social status. Fashion is not only the clothes we wear but also our hair, accessories and makeup play a role in defining our appearance. Even though designer brands were not important back in the days the idea was slowly advancing. The first known designer, Charles Fredrick Worth, was the first one to sew labels into clothing in 1950’s. Worth was the first designer to have his name sewn into clothing and the “first designer to dictate to his customers what to wear rather than following their demands” (Taylor). In the 19th century many of the dressmakers were anonymous and made clothing for royalty. Worth made a big leap into creating an industry that would be important to many people. In today’s society we have “high-end” and “low-end” designers who create clothing for the public. High-end clothing companies are the ones who sell straight from the designer and the price of clothing the designer wants to sell it for. Low-end companies are ones who sell for half the price. Often times the product is not original which comes with lower quality.

One of the main plagiarism scandals is mostly seen by designers and using cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is described as someone making fun of another’s culture while also wearing cultural outfits out of proper reason. Designers are often seen using cultural appropriation when advertising their new collection. Designers use other cultures to emphasize their work and to make the clothing stand out. We were able to see this during marc Jacobs 2016 runway when “his decision to style white models in dreadlocks” (Soh). Many people were furious with the fashion designer because dreadlocks symbolized African culture that represented strength. Having white models wearing dreadlocks was seen as cultural appropriation because Marc Jacobs was not using the hair to symbolize African culture but as an accessory to his runway. Even though these dreadlocks were not identical to African culture this is a big issue concerning culture and respect for others. There also has been a more recent incident involving Gucci where “models wearing turban-style headwear” (Soh) in the 2018/2019 fashion show in Milan. Even though turbans represent Muslim cultures they also can be seen as a hair piece to keep hair together and away from the face. Many times, the public does not see that designers are not trying to rip off cultures but to simply just use a specific piece from somewhere, even though at times it may seem like designers are ripping off cultures. Many of these fashion designers do not have enough time to research history of certain cultures which later results in backlash from the public. Designers see many of these items as accessories to include in their fashion shows but do not properly respect cultures they are taking creations from. Of course, there are different ways to approach this topic simply by saying that designers don’t steal or make fun of other cultures but simply use their traditional hair, clothing or jewelry for the reason that they were inspired. Seeing other cultures and learning about their native clothing, traditions and everything about them can be educating to someone and by engaging deeper into the culture inspiration is created in addition to wanting to show off that inspiration to the public. Even though being inspired is not always the case in why designers culturally appropriate but simply feel that a specific item matches the theme of the clothing line. This is seen through Marc Jacobs and Givenchy for receiving back lash and hate comments after white models were seen with dreadlocks. Marc Jacobs along with many other fashion designers do not culturally appreciate the cultures they are stealing from but simply use as props and accessories for their runways.

The main reason why these types of scandals, such as stealing, and copying are more relevant today then back in the day is all due to technology. Technology allows people to express their day to day lives, opinions and anything else the person wants to show. Fashion designers show their work on social media to advertise their clothing in order for people to buy them. As soon as their clothing is out to the public everyone is able to see, also allowing lower-end companies to create a knock off clothing from those designers. Technology is more accessible today then it was back then. Stated by, McDowell, “fashion images and media are a specific type of document and research material…therefore using fashion media as a type of evidence” (299). Everything is accessible online in today’s society which can have a positive and negative effect. By using technology smaller bran companies are able to copy other designers work and sell as their own. By posting everything online there is also a positive aspect of this because it allows the original creator to show a side-by-side image of the original creation versus the fake one exposing the smaller brand company. By exposing the fake product, it allows the original creator to gain credit for their work and also take legal actions such as a lawsuit against the fake creator. There have been many court cases filed by high end fashion designers suing smaller brand companies such as Forever 21 and Zara. While also having easy access to technology and online information “brand names are very nearly the last source of differentiation for providers of products and services” (Kenny & Aron 1). Brand names are very important involving the designer to give credibility for their work and to also show that a piece of clothing is their own and should receive proper recognition and not have knock offs.

Another plagiarism scandal can be seen through knock-off companies. All over the world there are smaller businesses and companies who take designer brands fashion pieces and sell for half the price. These smaller businesses are breaking the law for stealing but continue selling to the public. One of the most popular online store known as Zara has been ripping off many brands and selling as their own. In 2017 Zara has “coped Balenciaga sneakers as well as Kanye West’s coveted Yeezys” (Lieber). An Instagram shopper noticed the similarities between the two and called out Zara for copying well known designers. Zara has not replied to the post but has been called out more often after the incident for copying other designers. Even though one might say that this is legal due to their being no specific trademark to the item stealing is a big crime and for those who commit the crime should be punished no matter the situation. Having knock off brands is not always a bad thing for certain people it allows low income families to be able to afford clothing that looks similar to the original. These smaller brands who copy original pieces sell for half the original price. By selling cheaper clothing everyone is able to buy affordable clothing but also wear a lookalike from the original piece. Even though having these smaller brands is beneficial for certain people these smaller brands are committing a crime. They are stealing someone else’s work and selling for a way cheaper price. Paying for cheaper clothing also comes with cheaper material. The material is not as durable as it should be therefore people run the risk of not having their clothes last long when buying from knock-off companies.

While having these companies such as Fashion Nova who is very well-known for copying celebrity outfits immediately after posted on social media. Fashion Nova and many other knock off companies allow the middle- and lower-class families to afford the same clothing as the original piece. These clothing’s are exact dupes of originals but for half the price allowing everyone the opportunity to purchase. Even though these companies offer everyone an opportunity to afford these clothing’s they are committing a crime by stealing someone else’s work. These companies do not give recognition to the original designer which starts more complications. Some of these complications is that when designers see their work being copied they then tend to lack originality and credit for their work. Stated by Kenny and Aron, “brands add value to consumer goods by supplying meaning.. and image to the consumer” (1). Competition is also a major key in fashion because everyone wants to wear the best clothing and in order to achieve those needs fashion designers such as Gucci, Prada and Michael Kors need to meet their customer’s needs. Having designer names labeled on products gives credibility to the designer while also increasing social status to the buyer. We are also able to see a recent incident where fashion nova copied one of Kim Kardashians dresses. Kim posted a picture of her dress on Instagram and not even a full twenty-four hours went by when fashion nova posted a picture of the same exact dress on their website. Once Kim saw that Fashion Nova stole a design from one of Kim’s best designer she immediately took to social media and exploited Fashion Nova and their corrupt business. This has not changed fashion nova for the reason that they still continue stealing and copying many of the clothing shown off by celebrities.

Posting on social media is the most important thing in today’s society. Everyone looks at each other trying to gain some inspiration and ideas for their everyday lives. Many time people look for ideas on what to wear. Many times, people rely on what celebrities are wearing and what the new trend is. Celebrities play a big role in advertising clothing and many other products. By having A-list celebrates post and show off designer work the designer is able to gain for publicity increasing company profit. This does not only have a positive effect for designer brands but also risk becoming too popular and well-known. Once a company is known worldwide the risk of having knock off start to increase. This simply ties into easy access on technology because without it many of us wouldn’t be able to see what people around the world are wearing but it also allows us to connect with famous people and see who they are wearing.

Celebrities are not at fault for increasing popularity for a specific designer but do run the risk of creating knock offs. This is also a prime example to why knock off companies should give recognition to those who they are stealing from because without that picture or post showing the piece of clothing they wouldn’t be able to sell anything. Knock off companies rely on bigger brands to profit off their products which is why Fashion Nova and many others should give credit to keep the originality and creativity to the designer.

American copy right laws do not protect brands from copying which also duplicates to be made without anyone’s permission. Ever since 1976 when copy right laws were being written it was stated that “we were largely a nation of manufactures rather than designers”(Lieber). America did not have many fashion designers, so it did not consider of having stricter fashion laws and even today none of these laws have been changed. In Europe however had way more fashion brands who were creating original pieces which the public was not allowed to duplicate and because of the originality Europe has stricter fashion laws than America. However, designer brands are also allowed to patent their logo name or a specific design that is so original and cannot be duplicated. Patenting a certain part of a company’s allows the company to have more originality to themselves. Without a patent the public is allowed to duplicate any design they like and sell as their own. For many years everyone in the fashion industry has been fighting for protection of their designs but so far there has been no changes made. Many worthy solutions have been provided to congress but have failed numerous times. Even though many people can argue that the fashion industry doesn’t require strict laws for copyright protection it is always better to protect someone’s work and to have legal documentation to do so.

The purpose for stricter copyright laws is to protect the work someone spent their time and hard work into perfecting their product. No one would like to have their creations stolen and sold all over the world as counterfeit. By having stricter laws there would be less counterfeit production but also giving recognition to those who created a product first. Not only will this protect brands from fake products it will also help protect from other designers that like to steal work. By having stricter laws there would be more originality and creativity shown through designer’s work allowing the public to have different clothing and from the original maker.

Seeing how fashion has progressed throughout the years has history behind it because fashion trends show how time has changed clothes have evolved. Our clothing today will go down with history showing future generations how we lived and what kinds of life we had. Fashion is not only the clothes we wear but also who we are. Fashion is a part of us that holds meaning about our personality and likings. By having devices that allow us to view fashion around the world creates an image in our heads describing the location of the country, weather and fashion trends that are popular somewhere else then where we live. This is all accessible by technology even though it also creates problems concerning copyright, but it allows us to view other fashion trends without travelling to other countries, something that wasn’t accessible long ago. Even though copyright laws are not as strong as they should be they will too start evolving and hopefully come into play in the near future. Plagiarism is not acceptable for any reason which is why there should be more cultural appreciation given during runways and catwalk. Designers should know about the history and culture they are stealing from. Knock off companies should also learn to give credit when required. Plagiarism is a serious act and should be taken more seriously in the fashion industry. Without the seriousness many times we end up with negative effects such as copyright laws and crimes that play a huge role for plagiarism in the fashion industry. Fashion describes who we are, and we should continue being ourselves.

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Fashion like Cultural Appropriation. (2020, Jun 09). Retrieved June 18, 2024 , from

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