These knockoffs are uh-mazing

Thursday, May 13, 2010

left: Aniseed Skirt ($128) from Anthropologie
right: Cricket Match Skirt ($42) from Modcloth

I've been doing double-takes lately, ladies. As Anthropologie becomes more popular and well-known it's drawing attention. From stock analysts. From fashionable ladies. From other retailers! A few of you emailed me yesterday to draw my attention to the skirt above from Modcloth. Look familiar? Except for the stripes being black instead of navy it's a dead knockoff of the Aniseed Skirt (product page is DOA but the skirt is still showing up in my wishlist).

At first I was up on my high horse writing about how upset -- nay, outraged -- I was by this nasty turn of events but then I realized publishing that post would make me a hypocrite and an idiot. Because how often have I admired a $1200 Chanel tweed coat or a $3500 Prada shirt only to wish for some midrange retailer to knock it off so I could pull off the look? Sometimes I wish for a $100 item to be reinterpreted just so I don't have to pay so much. So I don't intend to have that discussion.

left: Manisa Dress (was $178) from Anthropologie
right: Lisbon Dress ($54) from Modcloth

Instead I would like to open the discussion to the community. How do you feel when you see an item you want but can't afford knocked off by another store? Alternately, how do you feel when an item you bought gets reinterpreted for less somewhere else?

Personally, when an item I want is knocked off I rejoice. That is of course assuming that the cheaper version is of comparable quality. I have to admit the Lisbon Dress above doesn't hold a candle to the Manisa Dress in my mind, though some of these examples are appropriate substitutes.

left: Polaire Vest (was $118), Anthropologie
right: The Swordsmith Top, Modcloth

I get much more annoyed when something I've bought shows up knocked off a season later. Even though I shop at mostly mid-to-big box retailers I live under the illusion that I'm unique. The items I buy are special and I don't want anyone else wearing them. Of course I know that's not the case in reality but it's about the mindset. So it's annoying when an item I put my cash towards shows up at teeny bop retailer #257 for $30 and the kids are teasing me for dropping $150 more on my "real" version. Yeah I know that $180 version only cost $35 to make. Thanks for stuffing it in.

And this is not the same question as seeing the same item somewhere else for less. That's pretty cut and dry to me -- some retailer got a better wholesale deal or has a lower markup on an item. This is something else.

left: Bold Boutonniere Dress (was $128), Anthropologie
right: DuPont Circle Dress ($55), Modcloth

I suppose the question could come down to personal taste. If having an item during its most popular season is most important to you than you'll probably be inclined to go with the original. If budget is your first and foremost priority then the less-expensive option is probably your preference. Is one side right and the other side wrong? Not necessarily.

There's also the question of originality. Perhaps you've shopped at a store called Anthrocrewtaylored this year? Usually these stores have interesting and unique designs. Sometimes though I can't tell them apart.

left: Skyfall Dress (was $178), Anthropologie
right: Mystery Writer Dress ($55), Modcloth

I do think the line is drawn on the business side however. This is an ongoing debate in the high-fashion world: what to do about these knockoffs? And let's be honest -- a knockoff is just that. You're taking someone else's idea and repackaging it. On the surface that's at least pretty frickin' lame. You're profiting off of someone else's creativity. Is it also a legal question?

left: Flowers of Flowers Tank ($68) from Anthropologie
right: Luau Woven Top ($20) from Forever 21

In the past Anthropologie has certainly thought so. Last year Forever 21 was sued by multiple design houses for their sincerest form of flattery. Anthropologie joined in that parade. But this year it's been pretty quiet on the legal front. Have companies resolved themselves to inevitable knockoffs? Is the economy slowing down court cases? Or has the consumer spoken and demanded lower prices or more unique designs? What's your take?

Previously: Catharsis: Imagining the Forever 21/Anthropologie depositions