A brief history of fashion fakes

Some designers detest it, some are flattered by it. But all of them have learned to live with it. The market for rip-offs thrives joyously and very lucratively. Faking It: Original, Copies, and Counterfeits, an exhibition at The Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York throws light on the wonderful world of shameless copying. Through the display of originals and fakes, dating back 150 years, and videos on how to tell them apart, Faking It investigates, among other things, how couturiers and their dodgy doppelgängers have learned to co-exist uneasily. And it’s clear that some handle the dubious honour better than others.

Coco Chanel, for instance, was matter of fact, even poetic, about it: “Fashion should slip out of your hands. The very idea of protecting the seasonal arts is childish. One should not bother to protect that which dies the minute it is born.”     

In a similar spirit, Olivier Rousteing sounded downright chuffed about high-street ripoffs of Balmain designs: “I love seeing a Zara window with my clothes mixed with Céline and Proenza [Schouler]! I think that’s genius. It’s even better than what I do!”

Tom Ford, on the other hand? Not a big Zara fan. He said “A lot of the things I did – it’s not going to sound anything but egotistical – if I’m lucky and I did the right thing, they will be at Zara way before I can get them in the store, and I don’t like that”

Roberto Cavalli can live with the high-street ‘odes’ but copycats from the fraternity bum him out: “But Mr. Michael Kors, he copies everything! It’s really a scandal and nobody has the courage to say anything. It’s really not fair.”

Faking It: Originals, Copies, and Counterfeits will show at The Museum at FIT in New York till April 25, 2015.


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