The fashion industry is a tough place to be. Considering clothing's purpose in keeping us clothed so we don't have to run around naked, it really does carry a utilitarian use preventing it from protection under our intellectual property laws in the United States. But it's a difficult place to be because at this point in time, every unique piece of clothing or accessory you see was influenced by something else. Sometimes inspiration comes from a designer explicitly stating so, paying homage to the originator and usually tweaking in a way to make it different. Other times, designers may be influenced by something they saw in passing and cannot recall, or even acknowledge that their idea was actually influenced. It's 2018. Everything has probably been done once, if not twice.
"Art is either plagiarism or revolution.” - Marcel Duchamp
Considering that in America, clothing designs themselves cannot be protected, it is not per se illegal to copy someone else's dress, or top, unless it is protected by copyright for a particular print, and so long as you aren't utilizing another's trademark. France recognizes protection for the design of an article of clothing, but we do not. What if the law's reason for not protecting designs on clothing is because designers should be free to copy those elements not otherwise protected? In other words, perhaps this industry will flourish if such copying is not suppressed? Whatever the reason for refusing protection in America (and clothing having a utilitarian purpose does play into that reason) the public, and certain key players, have taken it upon themselves to play a vigilante-type role, despite the law actually refusing to condone certain copying.
Diet Prada is the first that comes to mind. Diet Prada is run by two individuals, Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler, who call out copied styles by both fast and couture brands equally. The duo, often posting most of their juicy gossip via instagram stories, has a humor to them that alleviates the "blame game," though it's still certainly clear for all to see. While the page hosts an impressive archive and wealth of fashion history that most people probably thought would never surface again, there are some issues with the page.
For one, it has to be understood the limited protection that American designs are afforded. A knockoff is not illegal in and of itself. Next, you have to remember that everyone has copied from someone else. That is, after all, inspiration, isn't it? The line is crossed when your "inspiration" has little originality to it and a whole lot of copy&paste. Finally, and I find this the most damning part, is that calling people out and posting images side by side is going to make consumers believe that a designer who legally has not stolen someone else's design, has done something wrong. That's not to say that companies who blatantly copy another's design or print should be let go. Rather, it's those examples that are suggestive of one another that when posted on a site like Diet Prada, automatically means the copying designer is satanic & good luck to them in battling consumer perception otherwise. It's fun to poke and prod at some of these similarities and, honestly, very insightful into some of the trends we see today with side-by-side visuals of circa 1980's "inspiration," but if consumers think that their favorite high-end designer got to where it is today without copying anyone, then, lol.
Either way, I do think Diet Prada serves a valuable communal service educating consumers on a behind the curtain view into the evils of the fashion industry, and I'll be damned if I don't scratch my head at how they find some of these archived prints and products. But don't automatically believe that everything posted by the copy call outs is wrong, because otherwise you're just a copier yourself.
And if that's the case, welcome to the club :)