"Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery", or so the saying goes. Actually, an English cleric and writer - Charles Caleb Colton, known for his eccentricities, coined the phrase in the early 1800's. While the sentiment of the expression still rings true, you have to ask yourself - when does flattery cross the line to copying?
Some designers have made their fortune by "borrowing" ideas from others. Jackie O. made Oleg Cassini world famous after her savvy move to bring her designer tastes state side. Jackie loved Givenchy in Paris, and Mr. Cassini "interpreted" many a look from the French fashion house. Ironic because Cassini was French born - but based in U.S. - so they were "American designs".
American designers have been notorious in the past for tweaking their own collections before fashion week, after seeing what was on the runway in Milan & Paris. This all changed when New York started showing before the Europeans. (Thank Helmut Lang for that move). While the move does ruin many a fashion employees last weekends of summer, it did force designers to take a stand, trends of Europe be damned!
Coco Chanel never minded copycats. She famously quoted Mr. Colton when asked about her feelings on the matter. Chanel's key rival - Elsa Schiaparelli (excellent website!) took Coco's opinion as an opportunity to flatter her own creations. When the press asked Schiaparelli how she felt about copies compared to Coco Chanel's opinion, Schiaparelli replied - "my designs are inimitable". Which really was a mouthful - considering how intricate and colorful her designs were. It was an obvious slap at Chanel.
The whole matter is on my mind because of a shoe design I saw when thumbing through the latest edition of one of my favorite magazines. I did a double take when I saw a Berlin based designer who "created" a colorful platform sandal. Kostas Murkudis says this "flip flop" was inspired by "Chinese Imperial boots" from the 19th century. Hmmm. strange because to me they look like they were inspired by Salvatore Ferragamo's mulit-colored platform sandals from 1938.
Even in Mr. Murkudis was inspired by the Chinese, once someone as famous as Ferragamo has created a shoe before you and has been known globally for it - you just shouldn't go there. To me, that would be like creating a dance song today about voguing. Madonna didn't invent voguing, but she damn well did put it on the map globally -so why would you ever go there?
So why would you Mr. Murkudis?