Celine v Primark

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 Celine SS14, September 2013.

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Primark…WHAT THE?

The meteoric rise of the UK High Street has meant we’ve come to expect, even accept the inevitable seeping of ideas into the mainstream.  Call it ‘homages’ ‘interpretations’ or ‘rip-offs’ they’ve become a part of every day life as we all try to find ready to wear alternatives to haute couture. But when is the creep beyond acceptable? When does it become insidious and sleazy? I’m no splatter blood expert but surely Primark are taking the piss with this latest offering…

The excuse often used is that copying is the sincerest form of flattery..it’s copied because it is relevant, well-liked and successful…but please explain this to the artisan seamstresses when they lose their jobs to virtual slave labour and industrial machines as these retail giants reduce all around them to lowest common denominator in their drive to make money.

They say they can’t steal away customers because the Designer Brands are something us mere mortal people can’t afford….So go on..make it un-special for us for those rare times when we can make the stretch and buy less but buy better.

But more to the point…this is a ‘rip-off’ of a current Celine Collection, one that’s only arriving in the shops now for a Spring that has yet to happen –  will image-conscious women honestly want to buy these designer pieces if they think they’re going to be mistaken for wearing Primark? Take a step back..a  Designer Fashion label is not a chorus of reverential whispers, it still has to make money to survive.  The high prices it charges represent financial and emotional investment, labels using their money to grow the best talent with that rare ability to look at things in a thousand new ways and push boundaries. They also support teams of highly skilled individuals who are Masters of their Craft in sewing, embroidery, beadwork and much more besides (you only have to look at a behind the scenes video of Valentino to see what I mean) Skills that could be lost for ever if they aren’t valued and nurtured. Which means that if Celine’s sales are hit by ‘interpretations’  then these ‘copies’ are not only thieves in the night but they potentially damage future creativity as well.

Meanwhile Primark has no interest in being a brand with a proud sense of Self, they have no wish to win prizes for originality or innovation but instead act like a selfish adolescent: What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine, greedily sucking the life-blood from creative hearts like commercial vampires, their only concern being the ripe size of their profits.

So what’s a luxury brand to do? Is a raised eyebrow tempered with sarcasm enough? No. They really need to stand up and stop the ripping-off-machine raping the risk-takers and the blue-sky thinkers. As much as it’s a feminine label, I’d love Pheobe Philo to grow balls and slap an injunction on Primark for their pure audacity and say enough is enough.  Which sounds great. Except for the slow, complicated, highly expensive legal system that makes this a virtual impossibility.

Is there another solution?

Yes – Change the outdated, outmoded spectacle of the ‘Season in advance’ of the Fashion Show Timetable that spectacularly hands over, tied up with the most beautiful bows possible, every designers hard fought for ideas  and effectively gifts them to their parasitic enemies with a clear six months to ‘homage’ at leisure the very best of the best.  There is no other industry that would put up with this outrage – so why does the Fashion Industry?

Laters, Kate x

30 comments

  1. kerryobrine

    So true everything that you said. The trouble for the fashion houses and brands is that they then take orders for the pieces shown on the catwalks or the wholesale shows and then the garments have to be made to end up in the shops for the season start. It’s all a long process. I guess they could quietly do a fashion presentation for buyers and then a fashion show when the season starts. This in itself then questions why you need a fashion show in the first place – it’s more than about just showing the clothes because you can do this on a hanger – it’s about showing them in motion, on a body, with the music, place, makeup and hair all creating a mood. I’m pretty sure this has an influence on buyers and magazine editors about what to buy and show in pics. Tricky situation!

    • Maison Bentley Style

      True. But I can’t help but feel that an old system is being used because that’s the way it’s always been done – but surely with advances of technology change means the whole world is faster – including the Fashion World. It’s like most things – the shows became big because they generated so much excitement the labels wanted to exploit..that very excitement is what’s now biting them on the bottom. The magazines do play a bit part – they want to finalise months in advance what their editorials are. But power bases are changing..the speed of social media is making them look slow too… xxxxx

      • kerryobrine

        Totally agree. I think if you are looking at the old skills that are being lost in fashion then these are a lot slower manufacturing wise. There is no excuse not to try and change the system – agreed. I think there are so many things to collate behind the scenes – so many different companies working slowly and stuck in a time warp that doesn’t help as well. I know that when I order fabric it can sometimes take 6 months!!! Which does hinder progress! 🙂

  2. shelleyburbank

    Great post! I think designers should get credit for their creativity. Of course! Yet, this is a hotly-debated topic. I’ve read that knock-offs “rip off” designers. I’ve also read that NOT copyrighting clothing and shoe design (because these are functional items) actually increases profits at all levels of the fashion industry. Do we really need more lawsuits and money going to lawyers? Only so many people can AFFORD the high-end label, and if they can afford it, they will buy from the designer label. And the people who buy at low end retail here in the U.S. could not afford to buy at Bergdorf Goodman–not matter how much they lusted after the design! So I’m not sure copyrighting would increase profit for the designer. If anyone is interested in the legal debate, I found the following post interesting. http://www.mttlrblog.org/2013/01/25/should-fashion-design-be-given-copyright-protection/

    • Maison Bentley Style

      Strangely I am with you – I think we can all appreciate how by allowing social media to do it’s thing, interest and excitement is massively generated in areas that would’ve gone un-noticed in previous generations. Many of these ‘excitements’ should be restrained by copyright (e.g.. photos) but the beast is too big and compromises have been made (acknowledgements). But that ‘interest generated’ is then a powerful force fed back into the companies and actually helps them to grow them. But there is a tipping point where there’s a big difference between being inspired by a brand and wanting to emulate it…and damaging it. For the reasons above, I think this crosses that line. There will always be a need for levels of pricing in clothing to suit every individual and I utterly accept that…but let’s be responsible for what we do, what we send out there..and ultimately what we buy xxx

  3. Fashion Mayann

    This is a truly insightful post from someone who REALLY knows how the fashion industry works ! I’ve always hated counterfeiting and I’d rather not buy a copy if I can’t afford the original ! More than ever, I buy less but choose better ! xxxxx

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  5. fashionassist

    Well written and insightful, and yes we the masses would looove to get our hands on designer pieces
    but feeding us with counterfeit knock offs is not the “healthy” way to go–so terribly unrighteous…
    tastefully produced designer collaborations, on the other hand, satisfy all–the righteous way to go!!

  6. theclotheshoarderscloset

    First of all fantastically written thought provoking post. I think that this is not just a problem with Primark but with a lot of highstreet stores at different price points in every country. I use to work for a renowned British highstreet stores that would regularly get fined and products withdrawn for being too similar to it’s original designer counterpart. While it’s good to know that there are regulations out there maybe they are not stringent enough. I think there is a big difference between counterfeiting and the designer from Primark being asked to design something inspired from the Céline collection, yes it might be a bit too close for comfort but if it wasn’t legal then it would have been pulled by now. I think that there is an understanding between the fashion houses and the highstreet in a way. I think that the real threat to the luxe industry is the problem with counterfeiting, which directly steals the artistic work of the designers. It wouldn’t surprise me that if someone really wanted they could go on ebay and get a direct copy of the Céline version for not much more than the Primark inspired version. Thanks again for a great post.

  7. gingerandcream

    OMG! So similar and yet so not at the same time. Primark is a place relegated only to the purchase of fluffy socks and the occasional black vests on my high street visits. Such an interesting and thought provoking piece, many more issues no doubt. Love your blog as always

  8. sndrng

    So common unfortunately. Since I followed fashion shows, I can’t help but to have noticed that brands like Zara, Ash or & Other Stories are openly reproducing pieces from various designers. I know I can’t afford some of them but I’d rather not have it instead of wearing a copy and actually be aware of it! I mean, it’s ok to follow a trend but when it’s the exact same prints or cuts, it just feels like cheating. Now I don’t know if designers can do anything to prevent it, sadly…

  9. NaomiSFB

    I buy very very rarely from the ‘ p’ place and quite frankly yes they are taking the p@££, primark should provide designers who they rip off with a huge sum of their profit in the same way a thief would be made to pay back a victim they stole from …. Great post!