[By Alyson Linke]

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but that’s small comfort in the fashion industry where according to the OECD, as of 2013 counterfeit or “knockoff” goods are a $461 billion market that helps fund more insidious criminal activity including sweatshop labour and the illegal arms trade. Barring that, knockoff fashion is an incredible headache for those in fashion communications.

Affordable mass market lines borrowing designs from high fashion runways and the advent of small online shops popping up makes litigation difficult to pursue. Still, designers are relentlessly protective of their craft. The fact that fashion monolith Saint Laurent sued a bootleg company that co-opted their logo onto T-shirts that read “Ain’t Laurent Without Yves” which sold for $35.00 – small potatoes – speaks volumes. But for French label Vetements, a parody-line called Vetememes provided them with an opportunity to turn the practice of fighting counterfeit fashion on its head.

When 22-year-old Davil Tran created a raincoat based on one of Vetements’ designs with the tongue-in-cheek moniker Vetememes emblazoned across the back and sold it online for one third of the price of the original, the response was generally positive and Vogue reported that it was “slightly genius”. Vetements’ creative director Demna Gvasalia released the following statement, via email to the New York Times:

“Vetements will not be filing any lawsuits over the Vetememes raincoat and hope that he has enjoyed making his project as much as we do making our clothes.”

Given Vetements’ (legal) appropriation of logos like Champion and DHL in its designs, this response is on-brand but is a stark departure from the industry standard.

Gvasalia went a step further and released what he calls an “official knockoff” in the form of a raincoat without a logo on the back but instead a dictionary definition of a raincoat. This playful and lighthearted attitude is less about out-frauding the frauds but instead points to a more democratic view of fashion, where ideas are shared more freely between high fashion and street style. Vetements also created an opportunity to innovate themselves in a space where there is nothing new under the sun.

(Photo by @vetements_official via Instagram)

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