Copycat Couture

Copycat Couture

Wondering where you’ve Seen that logo or branding before? This season, designers like Jeremy Scott and Tom Ford are shamelessly borrowing ideas and creative inspiration for their collections. So just when did faking it become so fashionable?

This autumn, Tom Ford’s eveningwear collection includes a sequinned gown emblazoned with his name, his birth year and the word ‘Molly’. Unless his ultra-wealthy customers like hip-hop, it probably makes no sense to them – but when he sent it down the catwalk back in February, he was making a little Jay-Z joke

Several months earlier, the rapper had performed his song ‘Tom Ford’ (with lyrics: ‘I don’t pop molly/I rock Tom Ford’) while wearing exactly the same words across his back – no sequins, of course, just a big black T-shirt with a sparse white print. It had been designed for him by a Parisian streetwear brand called BBP. So when BBP used Ford’s name on that T-shirt, he decided to use their idea in return. ‘It’s a knock-off of the knock-off,’ he declared after the show. The original T-shirt, he pointed out, sold for $65. ‘My knock-off will sell for $6,500.’

‘Original’ has long been the highest compliment for a designer, yet it’s not unusual to see one brand’s idea echoed in another label’s collection – especially at the moment. Jeremy Scott attracted a mountain of press when he sent models down the Moschino runway for A/W 14 wearing the golden arches of McDonald’s branding – or something that looked suspiciously like it. 

Scott's next ‘borrowing’ for Moschino went straight for the fashion world jugular. In his Resort 2014 womenswear and S/S 15 menswear shows, interlocked smiley faces on medallions, vests and sweaters imitated the Cs of the Chanel logo. The Hermès ribbon appeared on orange shorts (look closely and it’s branded ‘Moschino’, of course), and there were nods to Louis Vuitton’s LV monogram and flower motif, too. All of these familiar details were acknowledged with the triumphant word ‘Fauxchino’, printed on swimsuits and jackets. It was a glorious, shameless celebration of all things fake.

In other words, not since primary school has the thrilling act of copying someone else’s work been so on-trend. And for Mandi Lennard, founder of the brand consultancy Mandi’s Basement, a fashion homage from one designer to another can be positively creative. She recalls 80s New York designer Dapper Dan, who took luxury logos from the likes of Louis Vuitton and incorporated them into his own one-off, wildly popular designs. ‘With his styling, he actually added to Louis Vuitton’s heritage,’ says Lennard. ‘I will always be in awe of Louis Vuitton, not because of the brand, but because of how Dapper Dan adopted it back then.’

Some designer labels are savvy enough to turn their imitators to their advantage. Late last year, rapper MIA designed a collection for Versus that took inspiration from illegal Versace copycats. ‘Counterfeits are something I’ve always had and collected, and I would also collect a lot of vintage Versace from the 90s,’ she told Vogue. ‘Sometimes I like the copies better and sometimes I like the original. I felt that there needed to be a bridge between both.’

The collection was streetwear, and every inch of it covered with Versace’s trademarks. It was the kind of bold-as-brass branding that market stalls plaster on their fake designer purses – but it told the world, ‘We see you copying us, but we do it better.’

Olivier Rousteing, Balmain’s creative director, is similarly enthusiastic about his copycats – and happy to take some credit.  ‘I know not everyone can afford a $1,000 jacket. I’m doing fashion for my amazing front row every season, but at the same time I’m doing fashion for young girls, who wear their version in the street,’ Rousteing recently told The Independent. ‘When I did my Miami collection and we did the black and white checks, I knew they would be in Zara and H&M. But they did it in a clever way – they mixed a Céline shape with my Balmain print! Well done! I love that.’

For big-name designers like Ford, Rousteing and Scott it seems that counterfeiting is a topic best treated with good humour. It’s essential to claim a place in the chain, after all – because if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then being left out can’t be good for business… or a designer’s ego.

  • Words: Hattie Crisell

  • Photography : Catwalking.com, Victoria Adamson, dapperdanofharlem.com, Anthea Simms,Versace