Copycats, knock-offs and imitations are nothing new in the fashion community. Designers and brands borrow, interpret and re-purpose each other's pieces all the time. Usually and hopefully though, there's a little originality peppered in somewhere.
Such does not seem to be the case with jewelry designer (and IFB community fashion blogger) Wendy Brandes and high street retailer Topshop. Brandes designed a collection of “swear rings” back in 2008, and recently Topshop began selling set of “punctuation rings” that looked nearly identical to Brandes' design. Below you can see Topshop's copy on the left, and Brandes' original 2008 design on the right:
Wendy posted about the Topshop rings on her blog on Sunday, and almost instantaneously the blogging community was abuzz with displeasure and calling for action. From The Frisky to Fasshonaburu to Vintage-a-Peel, bloggers voiced their outrage at Topshop and support for Brandes.
By Tuesday, Topshop had issued her an apology (and tweeted it as well!) and removed the rings from their e-commerce site. In a post yesterday, Brandes thanked her PR person for making contact with Topshop about the issue, but also gave much praise to her friends who had blogged and tweeted their support and for helping get Topshop's attention.
Topshop has also been called out for knocking off a necklace by Tom Tom Jewelry, and Claire's Accessories is no stranger to this kind of issue either. Mass retailers are known for their uncanny ability to recreate independent designers pieces, but these cases seem to be a violation of copyright, no?
We got in touch with Wendy today to get her reaction to all this:
“I'm happy that Topshop stopped selling the similar ring design after my representative called the company — though it was pointed out to me that the wording of the company's apology tweet was nearly identical to the language it used when it was pressured by social-media outcry to remove a dress design much like one by indie designer Yasmin Kianfar. (You can compare here.) It will be interesting to see if Topshop uses similar language next time this happens. I'm sure there will be a next time because copying is inevitable in fashion. That said, I'm impressed that so many consumers now understand the impact of an incident like this on a small company. I was really touched by the outpouring of support from people on Twitter, blogs and Facebook. I'm sure that influenced Topshop's quick resolution of my complaint, but even if Topshop hadn't acted, just knowing that people had my back made me feel like a winner.”
Topshop was reached but did not respond time for publishing.
We think that despite the fact that Topshop never should have ripped off Wendy's design in the first place, it's an amazing example of the power of our community and the power of social media to incite change and action. What do you think?