07 Mar Social Media Influencers Are Influencing Copycat Fashion Sales
The Role of Trademarks for Small Online Businesses.
Fast fashion giant companies are constantly accused of stealing from small designers at a cheap price – like, really cheap – where dresses can start at RM10. I’m sure any online shopper knows these sites. The in-your-face discount code pop-ups, overwhelming text and photos, and year-round sales that always has a countdown timer but one that never seems to end. These fast fashion sites can churn out between 500 to 2,000 new items every day and have quickly become a magnet for the fast fashion consumer.
Clothing hauls are almost a hallmark of any fashion influencer on social media, contributing to the overconsumption of cheap clothes
Source: YouTube – HUGE TRY ON CLOTHING HAUL 2019
We won’t even discuss the ethics in labour and the environmental impact of such practices, but one must begin to wonder how they can keep production rate so high? The answer is, unsurprisingly, fast fashion shops unashamedly turn to “copying” from smaller, independent creatives. Copying in inverted commas because it’s technically not copying per se as it’s always claimed as “inspired by” and can never be proven.
The victim? Independent designers with small
Instagram or social media shops.
Mariama Diallo, founder of Sincerely Ria, a luxury women’s clothing line, accused a major fast fashion brand (name redacted) of downright copying her designs with not a single detail changed, replicating even down to the photography and styling aesthetics. Diallo said she designed the dress in early 2020 and launched it in November, then the fast fashion company launched the dress in July 2021.
She took to TikTok to share her anger, pointing out that the copycat dress was so cheaply made with fabric that’s so poor-quality, you can see the model’s underwear. It’s a disgrace to not only the hard work she’s put into the design aspect, but to her dresses which were all sketched and made in Los Angeles using materials she was proud to sell. This is not the first time such copying has happened, and unfortunately, even owning the copyrights to your designs is not the trump card in these situations.
“How can I even keep up?” she said.
Large fast fashion corporates are constantly accused time and time again of duplicating designs from small businesses, so how have they stood against the waves of hate every now and yet be unimpacted in any meaningful way?
The answer: Social media influencer marketing
What is Social Media Influencer Marketing?
In the world of modern marketing, social media gave birth to an interesting marketing niche, influencer marketing. Influencers are individuals who have a dedicated social media following and are viewed as experts within their specific content type. Influencer marketing is a strategy of social media marketing that makes use of endorsements and product mentions from influencers.
The concept is not new, influencers are just like celebrities, only smaller and have a closer contact with the audience. However, it is this closeness that gives influencers the relatability factor and thus gain thought leadership much easier than old-school celebrities. Influencer marketing works because of the high amount of trust that social influencers have built up with their followers. Once that happens, they have massive sway over their followers’ actions, especially purchase decisions.
“I Wanna Buy That Too!” The Impact of Influence by Influencers
Despite large fast fashion corporations receiving backlash for stealing designs, they still have larger-than-life online presence and multi-billion-dollar net worth and its growing with each passing day.
A recent study from the Intellectual Property Office of the United Kingdom shows influencers play a big part in the sale of copycat and dupe products. In fact, social media influencers could be inadvertently contributing to tens of billions in counterfeit sales. With these fashion models, influencers, and brand ambassadors, comes the result of consumer demand. It’s so common for social media users to spend hundreds on overbuying cheap knockoff clothes they see influencers wear.
That’s the fashion influencer marketing and fast fashion industry cycle. The influencers generate interest and demand. People give into the demands because the clothes are cheap to buy and easily obtainable. The clothing companies need to continue producing more trendy clothes at low prices. The clothing companies steal designs to cut down on cost. Stolen designs are always super on-trend as it takes no time to produce, generating even more demand. More demand equals more brand popularity and more influencers latching onto the brand’s fame.
With the continual need for trendy new items,
copying has become part of the fast fashion cycle.
It’s nothing new that brands copy each other, it’s how fashion trends work. We seem to be mostly indifferent to one rich fashion conglomerate copying off another equally dodgy fashion company, to the point that buying dupes have somewhat become okay and something not to be ashamed of anymore. However, the line is drawn when large companies take advantage of small, independent businesses.
The acceptance of dupes and knock-offs ultimately hurts small business owners and small creatives who trained, studied, practices, and worked hard to create original designs to then have them stolen and resold for a lesser price. This phenomenon leaves designers like Diallo wondering how they can make room for themselves in the fashion industry.
As a Business Owner: Enforce your Trademark on Social Media
To build up a valuable brand takes so much time investment. As a small business owner, you know the marketing efforts that are required to create brand awareness in your particular industry, so you have to educate yourself about trademark protection.
It is important to point out that trademarking
protects your brand, whereas copyright, which is
automatically granted protects your designs.
Trademark registration of your business’ social media will give you an enforceable monopoly over the use of the trademark, including marks that are just too deceptively identical or confusingly similar. By registering your social media trademark, you will be able to prevent other businesses or individuals from infringing your exclusive rights. A registered trademark will be sufficient evidence for a social media platform to take action and stop any infringement. Without trademarking, enforcement of your rights on social media will be much more difficult.
It is extremely important that you register all commercial trademarks, especially those you use in connection with your social media, since it is all out on display to be easily copied. Discuss trademark registration in Malaysia with one of Intellect’s trademark agents today.