Culture of copying

Where does the inspiration end and stealing the idea begin? Are designers still capable of having a fresh look at fashion? Or perhaps, following retail chains, they only promote old, tested patterns?

Twice a year, major fashion players; dictate trends for the upcoming season. With a rapid circulation of information and efficient production process, the street can wear them the exactly same season. It’s all because, before new collections appear in the flagship stores, Zara already has copies of the most important pieces from Balmain, Marc Jacobs, Celine or Chloe in its shops all around the world. ‘We don’t come up with trends, we follow them’ – is the number one rule of the company. Zara doesn’t pretend that their projects aren’t copies; the company even has a special budget dedicated to possible compensations.


In the 90s fashion has come full circle. From that moment it has lived its own history, especially the one of the 20th century. Each decade, due to its political affairs and socio-cultural moods, brought some special changes. The emancipation of women, war and post-war reality, sexual and industrial revolution had a direct impact on fashion. No subsequent period brought as many diverse and different trends like the 60s and the 70s, when cinema, television and music inspired young people. Iconic movies: ‘The Graduate’, ‘Saturday Night Fever’, ‘Annie Hall’ and style icons: James Dean, Steve McQueen or Anne Bancroft influenced fashion. Max Mara happily draws from the past. Team headed by creative director Laura Lusuardi, in its office in Reggio Emilia, has an archive of the company’s collections all the way back to the 50s. It’s a collection of clothes, shoes, bags and vintage accessories (the employees search for them at flea markets and in second-hand shops), their own library with books on the history of fashion, art, design and photography as well as an archive with the most important fashion magazines that’s updated on regular basis.

Everything that might serve as an inspiration or be helpful in the creative process has been gathered in one place. Designers willingly reinterpret the past, mix styles, match elements that haven’t been matched before. However, aren’t designers becoming too literal while getting inspiration from the past?


Designer chooses a detail that a fragment of, or an entire collection is based on. It can be a print, construction of a skirt, picture from a movie, book cover, a sculpture, a photo session from 1974’s ‘Vogue’ or a project from another designer. Sometimes an inspiration becomes a 1:1 copy. Diana Murek, a lecturer at Istituto Marangon in Milan, skilfully spots these details. She started her blog Into the Fashion dedicating it to her students. ‘I wanted them to realize how important the history of fashion is. On my blog I started to show similarities between projects from the past and collections currently showed on catwalks. Conclusion: fashion circles in a natural way.’ Searching for and scanning archival photo sessions, lookbooks, ads, she points to the specific sources of inspiration. Since the beginning, the blog has changed its formula. ‘Information on the Internet must be visual. I decided to communicate with the use of images and without the descriptions of comparisons’ – adds Murek. The site has more than 10 thousand users each month. Due to Into the Fashion, Diana was offered her own column in Italian ‘Grazia’.


Miuccia Prada is often inspired by the style icons of the 20th century: Bebe Paley, Carolyn Schnurer, Peggy Moffitt. In the autumn collection, Miu Miu reached for the classics of American cinema. They based the whole line on the silhouette of the main character from drama ‘Mildred Pierce’ played by Joan Crawford. On the catwalk, models with hair just like Mildred’s wore clothes that looked as if they were brought straight from her wardrobe: jackets and coats with broad shoulders, dresses with floral prints, pleated at the waist, with triangular neckline and characteristic, sharp collars. Why did Miuccia choose this film? At the exact same time HBO prepared a remake of the movie in a form of a movie series, its premiere coincided perfectly with the autumn show of Miu Miu collection.

The plot of another remake carried out by HBO inspired duo Zuo Corp. the documentary ‘Grey Gardens’ filmed in 1975 told the story of an eccentric aunt and cousin (both called Edith Bouvier Beale) of Jackie Kennedy. Scarfs worn by Jackie’s aunt became the theme of the collection. In the final of the duo’s Autumn show at the fashion week in Lodz, a model played a role from the movie, where the younger Edith danced with an American flag in her hand, to the rhytm of music played by a brass band.




Such a literate interpretation of the past is not about the lack of imagination. Fashion is moving so fast that designers don’t have the time to endlessly search for an inspiration. What works is and idea that has been tested. These days, characteristic details decide whether the collection is successful. When clothing is a reflection of a story, it is easier to pack it nicely and sell quickly. Marc Jacobs, who designs about 8 collections per year, is well aware of it. After last year’s bow towards femininity of the 50s and the TV series ‘Mad Men’ at Louis Vuitton, now he decided to take on a controversial subject. The main character of his autumn collection is Lucia Atherton from the Italian movie ‘The Night Porter’ from 1974. The film tells the story of a complicated relationship between a concentration camp prisoner and one of the SS officers. A dangerous choice, considering recent events associated with John Galliano and his Nazi point of view. But the risk paid off – Katie Holmes, Natalia Vodianova, Cindy Crawford, Heidi Klum and Naomi Campbell dressed in Louis Vuitton have already appeared on the covers of, amongst others: Spanish ‘Vogue’, ‘W’, ‘Numero’, ‘Harper’s Bazaar’. In a year no one will remember about it. And so it turns… the wheel of fashion.