THE MYTH OF ORIGINALITY
Fashion is notorious for ransacking the world’s closets in search of inspiration, but designers are no more culturally acquisitive than chefs who prepare fusion cuisine, musicians in search of the best sample, or any of us who pepper our conversations with foreign phrases in search of a certain je ne sais quoi.
The globe is a rich buffet of inspiration and all of us are blessed with choice.
Danni Harris Graduate CSM Collection
Every literary work, every masterpiece of painting, every innovation and design is the product of connecting concepts or ideas that already exist. Nevertheless, staying on the right side of the inspiration requires individual awareness and attention to the source and similarity. Something ignored by many that opt for “inspiration” (a.k.a, cheeky and unscrupulous copying) as an infallible design method.
Low-cost brands democratize catwalk trends by creating affordable versions and big designers are caught up in controversies accused of paying too much attention to the work of small brands or timeless geniuses (the list is so long that we could spend here all day).
Although start-ups such as Diet Prada - an Instagram account that has become an industry watchdog when the fine line between copy and inspiration is crossed - are helping small businesses that do not have the financial resources to litigate and artists to highlight the serious lack of respect for their works, it is stipulated that fashion designers can analyse and copy any existing idea, use it and develop it.
Thierry Mugler’s SS98 “La Sirène du Futur” - Ludovic de Satin Sernin's SS20 “Wet ‘n’ Wild”.
The law considers clothing and accessories as a basic good on which the possibility of patents cannot be limited. However, what does exist is the Trademark ie; we can copy a model or an article, but we can never copy the brand image, usually represented by the logo (the reason why we can find it literally covering favoured items).
As there are no copyrights in this industry, there is a very open and original ecology of creativity. Charlie Parker said that one of the reasons he invented bebop - a musical style of jazz - was because he was sure that white musicians would not be able to reproduce the sound. He wanted it to be too difficult to copy. And that’s what fashion designers do. They create their own version of their inspiration, an aesthetic that reflects who they are and distinguishes them from the rest, an identity that marks territory.
Some may say that originality has to do with individuality, hence an element becomes original when it does not refer to anything around it. Others will most likely argue that it is related to temporality: for something to be original it needs to break into reality, come out of nowhere. But nothing emerges from nothingness.
Each generation advances on what has been done by previous generations. Especially in the era of the all-seeing Internet, originality - or rather “transformative inspiration” - is a difficult game, a paradox, something marvellously contradictory: the works are “partly original”, creative, innovative, daring, seductive, provocative, novel... but the originality of ideas is a myth and knowing it, a relief.