Alannah Hill: Designer or design stealer?
As mentioned in my last post, I recently discovered that Australian fashion designer Alannah Hill is not only inspired by certain Japanese fashion brands, but is GUILTY AS SIN of blatantly ripping off a number of their designs.
The issues of design theft, copyright, and intellectual property are prominent in the fashion world. The latest collections shown on the runway filter down to the high street as trends, and companies such as Topshop, Zara, and Steve Madden more or less ‘copy’ the current season’s signature pieces. And of course, this is expected, because people want what’s hot, and they want it at an affordable price. People know high street brands are not ‘designers’, and that pretty much everything they make is strongly inspired by what’s been on the runway in the last 6 months or so. Trends couldn’t happen without this process of filtering and imitation. High street brands do this every day, and as long as they make a few changes to the original design, it’s legal. But this isn’t news.
What is news, is when a successful fashion designer does this.
Alannah Hill, a prominent and highly regarded Australian designer with stores across Australia and New Zealand, whose work is self-described as ‘unique’, is ripping off designs from Japanese indie brands such as Emily Temple Cute, Jane Marple, and Metamorphose Temps de Fille. She probably thought that nobody would notice, since the percentage of people who would both know about her, and about the collections of small Japanese lolita and otome (older-sister style) brands, would be incredibly tiny.
But those people do exist, and we have noticed her game plan, which I assume runs something like this:
HOW TO BECOME A SUCCESSFUL DESIGNER – WITHOUT THE HARD WORK!
- Go overseas. Find small brand(s) with cool looking stuff in a style which would fill an existing niche in your home market.
- Buy stuff from aforementioned brand. Copy it.
- Open own store. Sell copies at high-end prices while marketing yourself as ‘unique’ and ‘whimsical’. On no account admit that you have ever visited the country or heard of the brand(s) you nicked your designs from.
When someone takes all the credit for another’s design, copies it, and mass-markets it for profit, this is called DESIGN THEFT. For a big-name designer to be stooping to this level is completely unacceptable.
The small number of pictures below doesn’t even begin to encompass the number of copied designs. And I only know about the ones which I recognise from the Japanese brands that I’m personally familiar with. I have heard that the majority of her accessory designs are copied from Korean brands, which is unsurprising as I have seen extremely similar ones (such as bow belts, sparkling shoes, ribbon and jewelled headbands etc. in Korean fashion magazines).
Top image is the original design; below is the Alannah Hill copy.
All original designs were released for sale in the Japanese stores AT LEAST SIX MONTHS before Alannah ‘designed’ the copies.
Japanese designer brand Emily Temple Cute ‘Jam Pot’ skirt. The print has the words ‘Emily Temple Cute’ in some of the jam pots, as the print was made by ETC for ETC.
Image from Baby Ribbon Blog (an Emily Temple Cute stockist). It is common in Japan for stores to have their own blogs, in which the sales staff post images of the latest stock they have, so that customers know when to come in and buy the pieces that they want. Some pieces are extremely popular and sell out during the reservation period, so if you want a particular piece, you want to know THE DAY it arrives in store!)
Baby Ribbon Blog entry, dated 14th February 2009.
The Alannah Hill version. She calls it ‘Jam Tart’ print, and it was released in her Spring/Summer 2010 collection.
From the same Emily Temple Cute collection, the ‘Jam Pot’ print dress.
Released mid-February 2009.
The Alannah Hill version, ‘Jam Tart Frock’.
Again, this was released as part of her Spring/Summer 2010 collection.
Emily Temple Cute ‘Alice in Garden’ print dress. Original dress and print by Emily Temple Cute, for Emily Temple Cute.
Released in December 2007.
The Alannah Hill version, called the ‘Play With Me Frock’. As you can see, the cut, embellishments and print are exactly the same – the only thing that’s different is the colour of the base fabric.
Released as part of her Spring/Summer 2009 collection.
Japanese designer brand Metamorphose Temps de Fille cardigan.
Released early 2009.
The Alannah Hill version. She calls it the ‘Doll Girl Cardigan’.
Released as part of her Spring/Summer 2010 collection.
By now, you should probably be feeling something like this:
It should be evident from these photographs and release dates of each item that these designs and prints were originally conceptualised and created by the cited Japanese designers – not by Alannah Hill. As I noted before, each AH piece was released at least 6 months after the release of the original design in Japan.
And clothes aren’t the only thing she steals. Last December (2009), Alannah Hill was caught ripping off a student’s logo design to use for her Christmas campaign. You can also read about it here on ninemsn.com.au.
Graphic design student Tabitha Emma’s logo design, created for the ‘Once Upon’ art exhibition run by the art company LeeLoo, Waterloo, Sydney.
…and on an Alannah Hill storefront for their Christmas campaign, ‘Once Upon a Christmas’ .
And now, back to the clothes. I’ve found some more photographs of Japanese designed clothes that Alannah has copied, but which I don’t have pictures or dates for. If you are familiar with Alannah Hill clothing, you will probably recognise the following designs.
Japanese designer brand Jane Marple knitted vest, later copied by AH.
Bow cardigan by Emily Temple Cute, later copied by AH.
Although to be fair, it seems that the original design was created by Elsa Schiaparelli circa 1927, and was called the ‘Bow Knot Sweater’. So we’ll let this one go.
Turtleneck pullovers by Emily Temple Cute, which AH copied.
“That’s all very well”, you might say, “but isn’t her clothing cheaper and more accessible than these Japanese brands anyway?”
The answer is an emphatic no. Alannah charges just as much, if not more, for her knockoffs (I’m terming them that from this point onwards, because that is clearly what they are) than they originally cost in Japan. A silk skirt by AH will run you around $300AUD, a cardigan around $200, a pullover around $130, and accessories from $40-70. Coats run between $500-700. Shoes will cost around $150-200.
As for accessibility – yes, it is much easier to buy from a store in your own country (Australia/NZ context) than it is from overseas, especially when we’re talking about buying from Japan, which more often than not will require you to use a shopping service as an intermediary (due to the language barrier and the reluctance to deal with foreigners, many -not all, but many, Japanese stores will usually only sell their merchandise within Japan and refuse to ship overseas.) But purchasing clothes from Japan is possible, and not very difficult. I have been buying clothing online from Japan using shopping services and auctions, along with the EGL sales community on Livejournal.com, for three years now. Some of the girls I know have been doing it for a lot longer, for 8-10 years. And it’s not difficult at all. All you need is a Paypal account, and the contact details of a good shopping service.
However. Regardless of whether or not it’s more convenient to buy from your own country, when we bring the issue of design theft into the picture, that’s a different story. Knowing what I do now, (and hopefully, you feel the same way), I will not be purchasing anything from Alannah Hill in the future. Art and design theft should not be supported, and I will not be giving her any of my money for copying somebody else’s hard work.
It is incredibly sad that copyright is very hard to obtain with clothing designs, prints and etc, because it is legal to make very slight changes and thus own the design – even if it’s blatantly obvious where and what you pinched it from. And it is even more difficult, if not impossible, to enforce this overseas – in the vast majority of cases, you are actually unable to do anything under international law if the theft happened outside the country of origin.
As for this particular case, I don’t believe anything has been done to inform the Japanese designers that their designs are being ripped off on such a major scale. My Japanese, I’m afraid, can best be described as ‘mediocre’ and I don’t believe I possess the degree of fluency required to explain the situation well enough. And as I talked about before, even if it were brought to the original designers’ attention, what measures, realistically, would they be able to take in a legal capacity? Probably none, as the designs actually have been slightly changed. It’s legal for her to do this, but the real issue is: how much of her success is based on stolen designs? Are any of her clothes actually designed by her? She is a FASHION DESIGNER. This means that you DESIGN YOUR OWN FASHIONS. It does not mean that you copy other people’s designs and call them your own ‘unique’ creations.
However, public shaming has a track record of working pretty well. There is a Facebook group that you can join, called ‘STOP Alannah Hill ripping off other designers!’ Hopefully this will bring the issue to greater public attention, and perhaps Alannah will realise that this kind of behaviour will a) always be found out and b) will not be accepted by consumers.
So in closing, O Best Beloved, support original design. Don’t settle for anything less, though it might be more convenient. Join the group if you want, and if you love the style of Alannah Hill clothes, please consider buying the original designs, whether new or second-hand – you’ll either be recycling clothing (which is a good thing), or giving your money to the people who actually thought up and created the thing that you like.
If you want to see more of Emily Temple Cute, with suggestions for how to co-ordinate their pieces, here is their blog.