http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/artslife/story.html?id=e55e8e62-f66d-4b3e-adac-fc2e0bf5d85b&k=6067 In case the link doesn't work, I've included the article from The National Post below. KNOCK IT OFF! When it comes to fashion, the line between copying and flattery can get blurry Nathalie Atkinson National Post Thursday, June 14, 2007 CREDIT: Mark Mainz, Getty Images For Img Which is the knock-off? Or, are any of them fakes? A Lanvin spring/summer dress... CREDIT: Karl Prouse, Catwalking, Getty Images ...and an Old Masters dress from Ralph Rucci. Last week, Sam's Club (a division of Wal-Mart) settled out of court with luxury brand Fendi for an undisclosed sum because, it seems, the warehouse club was selling what turned out to be counterfeit Fendi bags, wallets and scarves. In April, Diane von Furstenberg filed a lawsuit against Forever 21, the cheapest of the cheap-chic chains. Forever 21, which opens its second Canadian outlet at the Eaton Centre in Toronto this week (its other store is at the West Edmonton Mall), was accused of copying one of her dresses, right down to the print. Last year, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, of which von Furstenberg is president, teamed up with their French counterpart to lobby the U.S. Congress to pass the Design Piracy Prohibition Act, which would effectively expand the protection already allowed to literature and music to fashion. To accomplish this, they cite the model of how fashion designs are protected in Europe. (Odd, given that major copycat culprits Zara and Mango are Spanish, while Topshop and H&M are English and Swedish.) A copycat doesn't pretend to have been manufactured by the original label, where a fake pretends to be something it's not, so there is a difference. Isn't there? Fakes, or counterfeit goods, are deceptive, pretending to be the real thing -- the most blatant example being expensive, status handbags. Many of the people who buy these are duped; others prefer the facsimiles because they don't want to pay big bucks for what may essentially be a vinyl or cloth jacquard printed with logos. But there's an important distinction: These cheap, unlicensed copies of an existing designer's product, right down to the label, are illegal. The ethics and legalities behind a copycat -- or its more pejorative synonym, a knock-off -- of a creative idea are less clear, involving many shades of grey that just happen to be the hottest colour in fashion right now. Fifty years ago, if our grandmothers wanted to knock something off (the dress worn by Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief, say), they'd simply sew a reasonable approximation of it. Nowadays, the high street does it for us, helped along by those perennially popular sections in fashion magazines and newspapers: so-called knock-off departments with headers such as Splurge vs. Steal, touting how savvy readers can "get the look for less" by comparing the high-priced designer original and its derivative, less expensive counterpart. This phenomenon of high street "inspiration" trickling ideas down from major designers requires a new verb -- something like "you've been Zara'd," I thought earlier this spring, when designer Jeremy Laing's innovative giant gingham collapsed swing dress (on the rack at Holt's for $1,095), was knocked off by TopShop (for ?40, or less than $100). How did the trend-interpreting powers that be in England get wind of Laing's prowess? A huge photograph of the dress in question graced the coveted cover of The New York Times' Thursday Styles during New York Fashion Week last fall. I was horrified, but also secretly thrilled, for the emerging Canadian designer. It's the big names like Prada, Jacobs and Chanel who are copied by fast-fashion chains (often before the originals even hit the selling floor), so isn't this imitation the ultimate compliment for a designer? It's this ability to direct fashion from on high, the very desirability by the masses, that gives those designers their power in the marketplace to set the trends and direct the rise and fall of hemlines. Can the cut of a dress, or the idea behind it, really be considered intellectual property? If so, Toronto-based Peach Berserk designer Kingi Carpenter could be accused of "copycatting" Alber Elbaz: In her spring collection, Carpenter silk-screened a large face, a la Warhol, onto a simple, sleek shift. Her version is $249; Elbaz's is $3,750. Or was he just copying Ralph Rucci, who put an Old Masters detail onto one of his gowns? Should I call that a knock-off or a coincidence, or neither? I asked Carpenter -- she had the idea all on her own (she's too busy as a one-woman business and fashion entrepreneur to go trolling for ideas on Style.com). Is it possible to copyright the sartorial zeitgeist, or trademark an idea that happens to be floating in the prevailing creative winds? The dynamics of creativity are complex, at best, and even more so in the fashion world. Is a designer who uses shibori pleating aping Issey Miyake, who himself is copying Mariano Fortuny (who probably got the idea from someone else)? If so, Alexander McQueen owes Vivienne Westwood a truckload of money, and bias draping queen Madame Gres sold her soul to the goddess Athena. And what of Dita von Teese stealing Bettie Page's signature look (and then Evan Rachel Wood stealing hers)? It can also be a major designer's prerogative to bring something back, rummaging through the label's archives for iconic looks of the past. Would self-plagiarism be exempt? The question is whether intellectual theft, something some may think of as immoral, can necessarily be made illegal. It comes down to whether fashion is art or utility -- and both can be patented in different ways. Exactly how much does someone have to change something before it's theirs? In the pharmaceutical world, when a drug is developed, slightly modifying the formula can bring about the same results and allows competitors to patent this "new" version as their own. I asked Laing about the Topshop knockoff, curious to know if in some backhanded way, he was at all flattered. "I was surprised -- I mean, who am I? You always assume that something's being knocked off because it's desirable," he says. So is it different from overt counterfeiting and fakery, like with faux Fendi or Louis Vuitton bags? "That, to some extent, is understandable," Laing posits. "Someone wants to seem rich without paying for a real logo. But when it gets to the point where people are copying unknown things or unknown designers," he muses, "it doesn't bode well for the aesthetic and cultural climate. Are there that few ideas?"