“Inspired By” Fashion… Is it Fair?

18 Feb

Teddy Blake Caty

” Caty” bag by Teddy Blake New York


This is a discussion about items that have been clearly inspired by another item. In other words, a knock-off or a dupe.

The terminology itself can be rather problematic as it can mean one thing to me and something entirely different to you.

Another problem, the bigger one is how ethical is “inspired by” fashion.

So let me begin the discussion by defining these terms as I understand them.

Inspired By- This is an item: a bag, a dress, a pair of shoes which in its design and production has gathered elements from pre-existing items. This is a broad definition. One may say, everything is inspired by something but for these purposes we mean a bag that looks a lot like another bag which likely is far more expensive.

Knock-Off/Replica- This is when something looks almost exactly like something else and seems to be manufactured that way to make that item appear as if it were the original item it is copied from.

So, those are my interpretations. A better way to discuss this concept however is by examples.

Example 1 “Inspired By” A few years ago, three to be precise I recall looking at some vacation photos of a friend of mine. I immediately noticed her shoes because I had seen a similar pair in PayLess Shoe Source (an affordable brand) the weekend before. Two things stuck out to me: 1) The shoes didn’t really look like the Payless shoes, they only resembled them and 2) This friend wouldn’t be caught dead, alive or in spirit form in a pair of Payless shoes. About two weeks later while browsing a magazine I saw the shoes my friend had been wearing. They were from a high end brand and definitely not from Payless. I liked these shoes but there was no way I would or could pay a high end price for “vacation shoes”.

On retrospect, the shoes in PayLess didn’t look a whole lot like these higher end shoes but rather shared a few basic design elements. In fact, it is likely that the shoes in PayLess were inspired by multiple higher end shoes with a similar design. I consider these shoes to be “Inspired By”


Example 2 “Knock-Offs” There is a company which seems to be gaining popularity even among hardcore luxury lovers. This company makes some beautiful, high quality bags. The catch is that these bags very strongly resemble a well-known luxury brand bag. The brand may or may not rhyme with Lermes. These bags resemble this brand so much, that to see a picture of them online, one may assume it is the MUCH higher end bag. Many bloggers and vloggers review these bags (that have been gifted to them) and attest to the impressive quality. These bags, though nowhere in the price range of the ones they so highly resemble are still fairly expensive. I consider these bags to be “Knock-Offs”

So now comes the real question: “Is this fair?”

Designs whether in fashion, architecture or technology come from skilled, hard-working persons who often have gone through years of studying, observing and working their way to success. When someone designs something, it is her or his intellectual property.

When someone else comes along and reproduces these designs for profit, they are essentially stealing said intellectual property. This, in my opinion is wrong.

What muddles or confounds this scenario is when it isn’t obvious that the design is completely ripped off. This maybe because the person or company doesn’t want to be known as a rip off so they change certain elements OR it could be a case of being inspired by a style and making that your own.

Another factor which must be considered is the cost. Most knock-offs are far more affordable than the originals. They tend to be made by relatively unknown or up and coming brands or they are mass produced by budget friendly fast fashion chains. This means that materials will tend to be lower in quality and these companies will not have a name behind them to charge excessive amounts of money. This alone, makes these types of products far more appealing to many. Most of us are on budgets and tight ones at that, and it makes far more sense to buy something that looks like what you want for a literal fraction of the cost.

So, is it fair?

Let’s consider a few points:

Most knock-offs are made from lower cost/quality materials.

Most knock-offs or dupes are far lower priced.

Many higher end products though typically made from better quality products and use artisanal techniques are still vastly overpriced.

Some high-end brands also mass produce their items, including those sold in boutiques.

Some companies who sell dupes or “inspired by” items use very good quality materials and they are handmade.

Making a product that heavily resembles another one can be considered theft of intellectual property.

Some companies make their own designs even though they may be inspired by another pre-existing design.

Some higher end companies also get “inspired by” other designs whether another high-end fashion house or a lesser known brand.

Someone who buys a “rip-off” may be completely unaware that there is an original more expensive version in existence.

So, will you partake in purchasing dupes or knock offs or “inspired by” items? My suggestion is to view each product individually.

For me I appreciate when a brand has given their own input into a design so that even if the item, a bag for example has a similar silhouette to another one, if it has its own touches, like a different flap, unique colours and hardware it becomes something entirely different and sometimes even more beautiful than the “original”. I am comfortable purchasing these types of products. I am firmly against purchasing items that obviously rip off the design of another.

Thank you for reading and have an awesome day.

Hermes Birkin

“Birkin” bag by Hermes


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