I was flipping through the latest issue of Essence Magazine this morning when I ran across this shocking ad:
via: The Lingerie Addict instagram
My first thought was Wow! Marlies Dekkers is advertising in Essence. Thats new. Then I looked at the opposite page and saw the following text Cacique: Exclusively at Lane Bryant.
Whoa. Wait. Seriously?
Now Im not naive. I know copying happens all the time in the fashion industry. In fact, its how the larger (and, often less creative brands) come up with their new collections each season, but this was appalling not only because its so blatant (those chest straps are a Marlies Dekkers signature), but because the company behind Cacique, Lane Bryant, had the chutzpah to use such a well-known design in a national ad campaign. This isnt inspired by. Its a near 100% facsimile.
Cacique is on the left. Marlies Dekkers (via Bare Necessities) is on the right. Would you have thought they were both Marlies Dekkers too?
Like I said, I know how rampant copying is in the fashion industry. And, though its not the most popular position within the industry, I actually dont believe in copyright protection for fashion designers mostly because theres no way I can see my favorite independent designers (all of whom are younger and have fewer resources than the big brands) staying in business if that kind of legislation were enacted. Itd just be too expensive (and risky!) for anyone to start a fashion line anymore.
But that said, it really gets my goat when a large corporation, with so many resources at their disposal, deliberately undercuts an independent brand. And it shows just how empowered these larger brands feel when they can not only steal someones trademark idea but also advertise with it, and know nothings going to happen because of it.
Now, I dont want to sound like a hypocrite. This is not a position Ive had the entire time Ive written this blog. And if youve been reading me for awhile, you know that I used to do fairly frequent Look for Less features, which were in many cases (Im sad to say) outright knock-off promotions.
But one of the things Ive started doing in the last year, inspired by designers like Piper Ewan and Between the Sheets and Hopeless Lingerie, is take a closer look at where my undergarments are coming from. And, please dont take this like Im guilt-tripping anyone (because I hate it when people do that to me), but rip-off companies like Cacique harm the entire lingerie industry.
I want to talk about all this in a more detailed blog post later on, but the gist of it is independent brands already start really far behind these big companies. We already know they dont have the investment capital and the corporate infrastrucure and the PR team and the advertising dollars, and all that.
But, behind the scenes, many independent designers (because they work with much smaller volumes than a large national chain) also dont have the negotiating power a big brand does. And going even further, many indie brands want to manufacture and produce ethically, so that very often means not going with the cheapest factory. And, of course, since these brands cant sell their products at a loss, some of those costs are passed along in the price tag to us, the consumers.
But if a big brand is not only able to avoid the actual work of doing a unique design but also able to get a much lower price to manufacture, well, that makes it hard for independents to stay in business. Because the playing field just isnt fair. And goodness knows, I dont want to live in a world of plain and boring t-shirt bras which is all many of the big brands seem able to come up with on their own (look for the full details of that in my Lingerie Market Report later on this week).
Anyway, I just wanted to put this out here. I see this as the beginning of an on-going and hopefully long-term conversation on the blog that explores the less sexy (but still important) side of the lingerie industry. I really see TLA as being about empowering customers to make the right decisions for themselves (because knowledge is power), and I think exploring where our lingerie comes from, who makes it, and if its being made in a way that resonates with your own personal ethics is a valuable discussion to have.
What do you think of Caciques knock-off? How do you feel about lingerie knock-offs in general? Id love to get your thoughts in the comments.
Author: Cora Harrington