So cheap, it can’t possibly be legal…but it is

Will you get the dress of your dreams or a crappy copy?

The legality of counterfeit (or so-called designer inspired) dresses is confusing to many people. No one wants to pay full price for what they believe is a designer dress and then discover that it’s a knock-off. But some brides-to-be and their maids, in the interest of saving money, gladly patronize eBay sellers and online shops that blatantly advertise from scratch copies of high-end wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses.

Counterfeit Chic has a straightforward explanation of how laws and lace intersect:

Like other items of clothing, wedding dress designs are not protected by intellectual property law. One designer did manage to find a loophole, however. In Eve of Milady v. Impression Bridal, 957 F.Supp. 484 (S.D.N.Y. 1997), Judge Shira Scheindlin granted a prliminary injunction against an alleged copyist of the distinctive lace designs on certain bridal dresses. The reason? While clothes are not subject to copyright, fabric designs are considered protectable forms of writing, and the court found lace patterns to be a form of fabric design.

So where does that leave sites like Designer Duplicates and The Bridal Chalet? Here’s a bit of copy from the latter’s web site:

The majority of our gowns are not brand name designer dresses. We custom manufacture “design inspired” gowns which closely resemble the photographs but include signature design elements unique to us. The images shown are reference photographs to illustrate the basic design and cut of the gown. Our clients frequently make additional modifications and design changes.

We all know that low-end shops “borrow” from the lines they see on the runways, but they usually put their own spin on the pieces they gank. Do signature design elements negate the theft of a design? What if a bride pays for a custom made gown and asks her seamstress to copy a designer’s work from a snapshot, but the seamstress doesn’t know where the snapshot came from? There are so many gray areas, legally, ethically, and morally!

I love the dress above, but because I stumbled across it on a counterfeiter’s web site, I don’t know who designed it. I don’t know what it ought to be made of, or how thick the lining should be. I can’t be sure how much it should cost. The price range for the gown is listed as $2199.00 to $2899.00…for just a little more, you can get a wonderful, beautiful, high-quality gown that is completely legal and karmically clean.

Honestly, I’m torn on the subject. Do you think it’s dishonest to buy a designer copy or just a great way to save some money on a gown?

10 Responses to “So cheap, it can’t possibly be legal…but it is”

  1. romona bride November 6, 2007 at 1:58 pm #

    It’s Romona Keveza – I can tell by the singature style of the ruffle. I got a similar one (real one) from the running of the brides in Boston and the price tag said $6,615.00. It should be a heavy heavy satin. I wouldn’t buy the knock off. Like you said – for that price, get a real designer dress!

  2. Never teh Bride November 6, 2007 at 2:23 pm #

    Thanks for the ID, romona. That is absolutely positively my favorite style of ruffle.

  3. satori November 6, 2007 at 7:48 pm #

    It’s so difficult for me to understand paying those kinds of prices for a dress that will be worn exactly one time, ever. I know that women want to look special – look their best – on their Big Day, and I can get behind that…but over a thousand dollars is just….so much money for a one-time-only dress! But if you’re willing to pay in the thousands (just not the multiple thousands required by designer dresses), it could be a great opportunity to get creative. Find a designer gown you love and do a sketch based on it (not a copy, but a gown inspired by the one you love). Then have a seamstress make it for you.

    I know so little about this kind of thing. Maybe it would cost more to have a dress made than it would to just suck up the designer price. But as to the main question, a knockoff is a counterfeit. Probably not the best idea to start a real marriage in a fake dress.

  4. Jess November 6, 2007 at 9:30 pm #

    All I can think of now, is the Vanilla Ice bit on VH1 where his manager or rep or something was arguing that no, they had not lifted a riff from Queen/Bowie’s “Under Pressure”, but he could see why people would think so because…and then went into trying to distinguish the beats, by beat-boxing, and I *still* couldn’t tell the difference.

    Anyway, I’d definitely buy a *decently priced* and decently made knock-off. Making sure the train doesn’t separate while I hustle on my big day is imperative. Saving money was also imperative.

  5. Alell November 6, 2007 at 11:34 pm #

    You know, if it were a case of duping a DVD and giving it to a friend, I’d be exactly behind you. That DVD represents livelihoods! Actors, directors, editors, composers…lots of people put work into it, and they deserve to get their cut of a legal buy.

    But imagine me making my own version of Star Wars I: I write my own dialog rather than transcribing, I make the costumes, and my neighbor shoots it with her handycam. Then does George Lucas get a cut?

    I would never ever pay $6K for a dress, designer or otherwise, one-time-wear or everyday. The very thought of it boggles my mind. But if I found something I loved and paid a seamstress a much reduced rate to come up with something similar, I’d feel like a bargain shopper. And who am I hurting? Does Romona Keveza struggle to put food on her dinner table for the little Kevezas if I knock off her design? No. It isn’t theft when someone else is constructing, coming up with a pattern, fitting, altering, and doing the craftsmanship.

    *2¢*

  6. icicle November 7, 2007 at 3:21 am #

    I was actually totally into this idea until I saw the price tag on the counterfeits. I don’t think I’d ever spend four digits on a single item of clothing, ever, unless I had infinite money, but if I had infinite money a few grand more for a designer dress probably would not phase me. In the real world I would sooner spend that kinda money on fancy champagne or bubble gum or, like, a down payment on a house.

    I like the idea of taking a cool photo or sketch (or even a designer pattern from Vogue Patterns) and getting it done by a seamstress. I suspect in many cases it would be waaaaay cheaper than buying a knockoff, and cooler, because it’s one of a kind. I could care less about whether it’s counterfeit or sampling or beat-boxing or whatever. Information wants to be free! However, you may be interested in some experiments the pattern company Burda is doing with “open source” sewing: http://burdastyle.com.

  7. K November 7, 2007 at 4:34 pm #

    All I know is that I wouldn’t buy my dress off a website whose main source of advertising revenue seems to be a crash diet system and whose endless banners extoll the virtues of being as skinny as possible for your wedding (Designer Duplicates, *cough, cough*).

    As to the knockoff aspect of the question, I wouldn’t be able to do it simply because I’d know the entire time that I’m wearing the equivalent of a fake LV bag bought out the back of some shady warehouse. I know it’s not quite the same thing, and no one else would know (probably), but that’s just how I’d feel wearing a knockoff.

  8. Melissa November 7, 2007 at 5:20 pm #

    My immediate reaction to the idea of buying an internet knock-off is “ugh, no way!” but I think the idea of taking a photo in to a seamstress to make a custom copy is kind of cool. Ethically those should be identical, I wonder why I have such a strong negative reaction to the former but not to the latter.

    But I agree that $2k for a knockoff seems steep, no matter who’s making it. When I went dress-shopping with my friend L (my first stint as a bridesmaid!), the most gorgeous gown we saw was “only” $1500, and was a brand-name original that could be purchased at a reputable salon. There are so many gorgeous original options in the $2k price range, if you’re planning on spending that much money why bother buying a fake?

  9. Nony Mouse November 8, 2007 at 6:48 pm #

    I think a lot of it depends on how much of a knock-off it actually is.
    I would have worn a knock-off if it was basically ‘I want a rusched bodice and an A-line skirt, with a chapel-length train, here’s a basic example.’ I would not have worn a knock-off if it was ‘I want this dress, complete with the beading pattern, but make these beads green.’ One is a shape. One is the core of the look.
    As it was, most dresses off-the-rack didn’t look good on me (so I’d never have trusted an internet size to fit), but a store’s small-sized sample of a designer dress was perfect. But because it was an odd size, and not actually true to the size on the label, they were selling it for half price. Score.

  10. Oscar February 8, 2008 at 3:17 am #

    As a fashion designer who is always interested in coming up with fresh ideas and innovations, the very thought of counterfiet is mind boggling. I do not and will never appreciated it fsomeone copy my own work just because they can benefits from my design. Designing a collection is time consuing and for someone to come in and steal the pattern, the fabric, and the style just so they can make profit is appauling.

    It is also important to note that many of these counterfeit duplicate copy are made in sweatshop labor. There is no way a corporation can still make money if they charge less for a wedding dress that cost hundred of dollars on fabrics, and man hour to construct the wedding unless they are using sweatshop labor.

    It is similar to writing and essay for class and someone plagerize your work by just changing the way you phrase your sentences.