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Business Of Fashion Shoutout: Intellectual Property Debates

Plagiarism is a hot topic these days, and the fashion cognoscenti are taking notice. The Business of Fashion ponders a very relevant question: at what point does "referencing" another designer's work start to infringe on intellectual property? As Imran Ahmed points out, it's one thing to be inspired by someone else's design, but wholly another to blatantly rip it off. He turns a critical eye to the subject, highlighting a case of obvious copycatting by Steve Madden, as well as a subtler, "did-she-or-didn't-she" case involving a Diane von Furstenberg design. For the past several years, it's become a heated moral issue in the fashion world. Having seen clothing in just about every possible incarnation, it's increasingly difficult to produce something new and innovative. Therefore, almost all design is referential in some way, and a designer's inspiration can often involve revisioning and putting a new spin on an existing look. In this world of the postmodern pastiche, as fashion cycles become shorter and shorter, and modern media allows for immediate, worldwide access to the fashion world, it becomes difficult for the designers themselves to even distinguish whether or not the inspiration truly came from themselves, or whether it was tucked away somewhere in their mind after having glimpsed another person's work. For the more brazen cases of outright theft, there seems to be little consequence. The dizzying pace of fashion and the costs of taking legal action make it difficult for designers to stop the unauthorized duplication of their work en masse, as the legal process will take far longer than the fashion season and won't happen in time to stop the copycats.
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