I started this blog to educate and help other small or startup fashion related businesses based on my experience and research. Before I can move on to other issues about copying, (such as my list of “If you are going to copy me here are the rules.”) we must first come together and understand the implications of copying from all angles. Even if you don’t agree with others you must still seize to opportunity to learn from their viewpoint. I have created an overview of how copying can affect the following: The SAHM Shop, the designer looking to mass produce, the showrooms, the retailers, the product.
I have to admit that since I wrote my last post and recieved an amazing amount of feedback my understanding of this issue has really changed. Let’s start with:
The SAHM Shop: I have to be honest my first view of the SAHM shop was-quit copying my product and come up with your own idea! But I have come to a deeper understanding. I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth but for the most part the average stay at home mom shop has opened to produce low quantities of product in their spare time (as if SAHM’s have spare time LOL). They, for the most part, try to put their own spin on the product and don’t feel they are much competition for larger businesses out there even if they do make a very similar product. They are happy to be one among many making the same product because they know they could never supply to the masses anyway. I received an email yesterday from Jennifer of AJ Bloom (www.ajbloom.com). I believe she sums up this viewpoint nicely.
“Part of my business is hairbows. I certainly didn’t come up with the idea of hairbows, but I did see a market for hairbows matching applique tshirts or bloomers. My big thing is the bloomers. I love them. I don’t see a lot of them out there. Sometimes I do search the internet for inspiration or to see what some of the latest trends are. I don’t believe that I have ever copied anyone though. My hairbows have a style of their own. The more time I spend in this the harder it is to appear original. I know there were some looks I thought up and thought was a great idea! Only to find out so did lots of other people!”
(side note: Good for you Jennifer for putting your own spin and branding technique on hairbows.)
The Designer Looking to Mass Produce: I fall into this category. (And again to add perspective not choose sides or condone the path they chose, so does Vintage Rose Wraps. Please don’t post here about that debacle. I only bring it up again to reiterate my point of educating and understanding this industry we are a part of.) This is a person that takes a design concept with the intention of making it a household name. We have done our homework on how to mass produce our product. We spend time branding and developing wholesale relationships. To us making 50 sells on Etsy a month is a stepping stone not a good month. To us someone copying our product is not flattery but a hinderance in us attaining our larger goal. To really understand this perspective you must also understand the implications of how copying affects the following categories.
The Showrooms: (think of them as the store reps at malls that only sell to retailers) Once you break into wholesaling and having showroom reps you are part of the inner circle so you really don’t have to fear a copy cat being picked up by another showroom rep. The circuit of showroom reps coast to coast is pretty similar to our network of boutique owners. They talk and they know whats going on with each other. They also have no interest in repping a line that is just like another line on the wholesale market. It’s a tough sell and their peers will question their judgement, “why did you pick up that line just like ______?”. However if a line launches a good product and doesn’t make it they may actually seek out a copy cat.
The Boutique Retailer: These are your average mom and pop boutiques that buy from the showrooms and sell at your favorite shop downtown. They are unique and a little pricey but you love going in there! Sadly many of these shops don’t make it. They have a lot of overhead and competition. Much of this competition comes in the form of online retailers with little overhead and some comes from SAHM shops that copy the product of the boutique labels they carry. When a product is copied by several SAHM’s underpricing product in order to try to oversell the other SAHM shops online the product becomes less desirable to buy at full price at the retailer. The retailer can’t move product and the label trying to wholesale doesn’t get repeat orders. I’m not blaming the closing of stores on SAHM’s because there are so many other factors-bad location, poor product selection, overpricing, not know their demographic….I am just showing how a small online Etsy shop still has an impact on a bigger industry. We are all spokes of one big wheel.
The Product: This guy can really get the shaft in a few ways:
Poor quality knock offs. I read a description of one of my copy cats of candy love ruffle leggings. It read: I can’t get the ruffles to line up but it’s still really cute. Oh I have a comment on this. Lots of them but I will keep it to myself like a proper lady.
Overexposure creates boredom. When lots of people make a product it gets overexposed. People get sick of looking at it and tutorials pop up all over the place on how to do it yourself. The product loses its allure and perceived value.
Price wars. I may do a full post on this later because it really gets to me. You see a product and it’s selling for $30. You say I can make that for way less and price it at $20. Do you not know your worth? I know that dress took you over an hour to make and at least $12 in supplies so why are you selling it for $20??!? Do you not deserve a profit on top of labor and material expenses? I think people price low to try to sell and it really isn’t necessary. Create a solid product and price it fairly to you and the purchaser. Then use branding and marketing to sell it. When we keep trying to under price each other we all lose.
The product can actually win here too. That doesn’t mean the original designer wins but really we have to put ourselves aside because quality product is king. When many companies make the same product it only gets better. Some sloppy knock offs will be in the mix but after time designers find ways to tweak the product to create a smoother seam, production shops use the proper stitching and machines to create a higher quality version. Designers get inspired and create spin offs of the product and our industry moves forward. While I hate to admit it, copying is was makes this industry go round. When I am copied it only inspires me to create more, even if that product gets copied. I enjoy being a trend setter. The key is being a trendsetter and making money.
Up next: Branding your product to claim your own corner of the market.
This info is based on my experience, understanding and interaction with others. I started this series to create a dialog so please post your additional info, input or questions here or on my The Fashion Business Mentor fb page or email me at email@example.com if you’d like to contribute to my series.