I really enjoyed Savory Stitches post this week, "Copycat Guilt," in which she asks if it's okay to make an indie designer knockoff.
As she says—and I would heartily agree—we rarely feel guilt when knocking off a big retail darling like Anthropologie. I'm certainly not above copying mega brands and small ones, too. It's been part of my sewing education and I'm not selling the FOs. In fact, half the time they're duds.
But think about it: When does inspiration become imitation, and is that okay? What role does imitation play in our creative work as seamstresses? Think of Sew Weekly's Make This Look series and sew-alongs that encourage knock-offs of silver screen loveliness.
I think the struggle is wanting to support independent designers while also having an equal or greater desire to exercise our own skill/creativity.
With such visual inspiration, it makes sense that we would be tempted to copy, adapting along the way (a moved zipper, pockets, different fabric, etc.). Also: I don't see it as some great privilege or that I'm saving a great deal of money, if one considered the YEARS I spent learning to sew. Sheesh, if I got a penny for every minute I spent with my (ergonomic!) seam ripper, I might have the beginning of a retirement fund.
That said, I'll be the first to admit that I really admired a dress from an indie designer and I could've tried to recreate it, but it filled me with guilt because the dress was also handmade.
When pondering this issue, I often go back to this TED talk, "Lessons from Fashion's Free Culture." Johanna Blakley says, "One of the magical side effects of having a culture of copying is the establishment of trends. People think this is a magical thing. How does it happen? Because it’s legal [in the fashion industry] for people to copy one another.”
Copying Sewing Patterns?
Let's go down the rabbit hole a bit further. When I was taking pattern-drafting classes, my teacher told me, "At this point, you're better off just using your blocks."
My blocks—a term that I liberally use to refer to any well-fitting basic pattern—can be altered to nearly any design. But is it okay to copy sewing patterns, Big 4 or Indie?
Sure, I can buy the pattern and compare it to my block. But—given how much I hate fitting and struggle with it—it would be so much easier to begin with the block and draft it. I mean, I bet I could draft something that closely approximates the Colette Ginger (simple A-line skirt with a lovely waistband) or the Twinkle Sews A Plus A-line skirt (pleated front).
It's a conundrum for me. I want to support designers, but I don't want to make my sewing process harder—it is, after all, what I do in my free time. If I make it and it flops, I go out and buy the pattern. That happened with Simplicity 2443.
But what do you think? I know I've covered a lot of ground here—but do you think imitation sneaks its way into your sewing? Where do you draw the line? Is there a line?