"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery"
How many times have we heard that quote before? While this may be true of superficial aspects such as coordinates, styling, makeup, hairdos, etc. when we are talking about design or selling, imitation suddenly become theft. Artists are quick to claim ideas as their original work, and point fingers at similar pieces as being stolen.
In a world as small as Lolita, ideas seem to overlap and spread quickly. How many versions of Paris Window, Alice in Wonderland, Swan Lake, Trump Suits, Mermaids, etc. are there? It is true that all these big brands still manage to sell out their prints and everybody has their favorite version of each motif as seen in this fun poll here and here. Brand replicas are widely bought, with the argument that the Brands are not suffering financially from the replicas anyway.
What about the small, indie brands and Western brands? When somebody is trying to make a living with their own two hands designing, drafting, sewing, redrafting, and sewing some more, is it still OK to copy their designs? What about being inspired by another designer? Obviously, everybody gets inspiration from SOMEWHERE, but when does inspiration cross the line into imitation?
a) a divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul.
b) the divine quality of the writings or words of a person so influenced.
Oftentimes, a piece of art, a beautiful dress, a swatch of fabric, a fancy trim, or a certain photograph captures a feeling that inspires you to create something of your own. Your mind races and you catch your breath - you want to make SOMETHING from this, though you are not quite sure what yet. Jot some quick notes about what's racing through your mind before you lose the ideas!
Inspiration gives you ideas. It gives you creativity, and lets you run with it!
a counterfeit; copy
Do you find yourself flipping back and forth between looking at your own design and somebody else's? When you place them side by side, do they look like they were done by the same designer? Is there anything distinctly different between your design and the original? Are you looking only at one image from one designer for ideas? If many of these apply to you, be careful, you might be making a copy!
My advice when you find this happening, is to leave that design alone for a while. Work on something else or look at some other pictures for inspiration.
What if you are on the other end of the Imitation Trap? See one of your designs being sold elsewhere? Before you get all up in arms and message the thief, first look at the design. Is it a general, common design? Could it be coincidence? Many cuts and designs are commonly found, especially in a fashion with as many rules as Lolita.
If it is a unique design and obviously copied, try contacting the seller politely to ask them not to use your design. Many times people are willing to comply if you simply ask because they don't realize the damage it can do to an independent designer when their designs are ripped off. If they are NOT willing to take down their imitation, try to get the word out about your original in a calm and organized fashion. Throwing a hissy fit is not going to win you any more fans and will only make you seem petty and desperate. Hopefully consumers will be willing to support you as an independent designer and seamstress :)