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Monkey See Monkey Do: Fashion Designer Copycats

I’m going to try to write this as best as I can considering that my fingers are freezing since Fall decided a gradual drop in temperature was not the kind of entrance a bad bitch makes. In one day temperatures in New York dropped over 10 degrees Celsius and this Caribbean sun child is not dealing well. I cannot wait to be home in a couple weeks.

Anyway- beating around the bush because I am tired of this narrative. Copycats- Local fashion designers copying each other and copying international work. From the beginning of time, or say 2013 when the new wave of up and coming fashion designers started to become noticeable, was the issue of copying. I have addressed it before. Very regularly too, my informants would send me images of unoriginal work, juxtaposed with the alleged inspiration. I have been drinking lots of tea. What can I say again? These “designers” get so excited and carried away, claiming you’re jealous or a hater or that you have some dark motive, if you even suggest that their work was not born in their heads and executed by their hands. I really could do without the nonsensical tirades, so I usually sit back and let them scroll through Pinterest to their heart’s content.

Today what I want to say is slightly different. Recently a couple “designers” (and I put this word in quotations because many of the fashion makers in Trinbago are not actually designing in the true sense of the word) have been called out for copying, namely Laura Narayansingh, Tobye and Shoma and Sarah Jane Waddell. I agree that their pieces do very closely resemble the works of others, but I have to say also, that I am not 100% convinced that this is a case of outright “Copying”. None of these “designs” are original ideas- not the alleged inspirations, nor the alleged copycats.


Laura Narayansingh was accused of copying this Michael Costello design. I admit it looks prettttty similar, save the fabric and construction, but maybe there is a glimmer of a chance that she did not actually copy it. Hear me out. This is my issue with the issue. We’re saying that people are stealing designs, but let’s get serious, you think Michael Costello was the first person to think, “Oooh, let’s do a deep plunging neckline on the bodysuit and add a cape”. Capes and plunging necklines are rampant. It’s not a unique concept in the first place.  The real design in this piece is the beautifully structured silhouette created with the shoulder pads, the fabric choice and how they cleverly combined the material used on the high-waisted panties with the lighter weight material for the upper half. Design is not aesthetic alone. It has more to do with how an idea is translated into a tangible, functional piece. Laura may have a similar aesthetic, but in terms of construction, I would say these are chalk and cheese. You can’t take it at face value alone.

Michael Costello


Laura Narayansingh Monday Wear 2018

Do I even want to address Tobye and Shoma again? Grudgingly, I’ll dig in, but only because my inbox is full of alleged copycat work from them, and people are begging me to say my two cents. T&S’s styles rely heavily on the fabrics they use. The designs are very simple, incorporating basic bodice patterns and full circle skirts. The toiles for their pieces can be found in any Apparel Construction for Beginners classroom. So when people say to me that they are copying a design, it’s hard for me to really share in the outrage, because their “designs” are not true “designs” at all. Well, they’re not new ideas is what I mean, and I don’t think they are claiming them to be new ideas either. They make clothing; gorgeous clothing, but all the beauty is in the fabric. And they aren’t embroidering these textiles themselves, they’re buying them retail, from stores that are selling the same fabrics to other designers. You MUST expect to see similar work if it is the same fabric. While I do see bold similarities in the following image comparisons that were sent to me, let’s be real. None of the pictures; the alleged inspiration nor the T&S versions, are unique. They are basic patterns from the 1940’s, built with beautiful lace. The designer credit here, should go to the ones who designed the lace. Now if you showed me two lace samples that were super similar, then I would call out someone for copying.


Tobye Gill in T&S


This is a very similar lace, with an identical design (by design I mean that it is a fitted long sleeved, jewel neckline, basic bodice and floor length skirt) and of course comparisons are going to be made.


The latest hoopla is around Sarah Jane Waddell’s 2018 Monday Wear presentation. Where to begin? First off, you just know that Monday Wear Designers are not designing in the true sense of the word, when every Tom, Dick, Harrylal and their mother can be a Monday Wear designer. This business has been watered down like free drinks at 3am. I feel sorry for the J. Angeliques, Ryan Chans and the Ginger Wirebras who are trying which each design, to create something new. Why bother? There are 3000 cooks in the kitchen and everyone’s work looks the same. And according to my friend, people dig frauds.

Anyway, back to Sarah. People are accusing her of copying Samantha Ammon‘s work from last year. The styles definitely look like they can be a part of the same collection, but I’m going to come outright and say this, I don’t think she copied it. They are both brown swimsuits with mirrored embellishments applied in a mosaic pattern. None of the swimsuit designs are new. Go on Amazon now and you can find all these styles. Go on any swimsuit brand page and you will find them too. None of these girls, Samantha nor Sarah, invented these concepts. Secondly, do you know how long these mirrored embellishments have been around? These Monday Wear designs are not rocket science. Nobody copied anyone. All the ideas here are unoriginal. Furthermore, since when people don’t buy clothes because another brand did it first? Let’s just take a stroll through Zara, shall we? Everybody want to eat ah food oui, and Monday Wear seems to be the biggest pot of pelau in the local fashion industry. If the demand is there, by all means, supply.

Who can say that their work is truly an original idea? Which designers can show me that they were inspired not by other garments, but by the curves of a staircase, or the colours in an oil spill? Which “designers” are standing over patterns, and manipulating them to create a specific fit? Which designers are thinking about clever closures, or ways to modify a silhouette that they are drawn to? Who is playing with fabric weight and experimenting with different types of interfacing or even paper and unconventional materials? Who is innovating with new textiles made from sustainable sources? Who is dyeing their cloth to create their own signature prints? Who is sketching designs to be later converted into a repeated print pattern? I know who, and they are who I consider “Designers”. I don’t class these as designers; the people who flip through magazines, surf the internet or have a cable subscription and watch E for inspiration, and then take screenshots to a seamstress. If you don’t understand patterns I do not consider you a designer. Your seamstress is the designer. Too many times I am seeing basic, lazy work from local fashion creatives, who are having the fabrics to their job. The fabric designers deserve royalties. I am bored to death with the lack of innovation across the board. There are so few genuine creatives out there, but their concerted effort is often swallowed up by the flamboyance of flashy PR campaigns and Instagram followings of more popular names. I don’t care how many followers you have, I just want reliable service, a simple ordering and delivery process, impeccable fit, impressive construction and a garment with some special element to it that makes me feel like my money was well spent on a piece of art.


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