"We are all so designer literate now," says Lucille Lewin, owner of designer store Whistles. "So we know when a detail like Helmut Lang's signature slashes appear in another designer's collection. Having said that, we all have the same frame of reference each season - the same films, magazines, lifestyles and images from the last season - so a certain crossover is inevitable. But at the high street level there is a huge amount of copying. We have had prints, fabrics and signature shapes copied exactly. They may tweak the odd detail but these people can work fast and have the copy in store when our pieces are still in season. This is not acceptable."
Draper's Record writer Michael Harvey identifies the Gucci velvet suit and the Ralph Lauren pinstripe pant suit as pieces directly copied by four different retailers: "Some companies may change the colour or disguise the piece by altering certain features, but too much and they risk losing the connection. They employ consultants to spot the trends and send buyers to the four fashion capitals to buy designer pieces to be copied in their studios."
Merrell's case has yet to come to council, though an independent legal source says, "It must be taken seriously because Merrell has been granted legal aid. Public money is not squandered on hopeless cases." In the broader picture, the majority of British people shop on the high street rather than in designer stores. The high street is raising awareness and levels of taste in Britain. In ten years time, young girls who buy designer copies may be able to afford the real thing. The minute people stop caring about fashion is the minute the industry might as well give- up. Perhaps that is why designers are not beating a path en masse to their lawyers'doors.Reuse content