Should you buy a copy? What’s the harm?

Wednesday, September 13th 2023
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A few weeks ago, a reader asked my opinion on a pair of suede boots that were clearly a copy of the popular Open Walk from Loro Piana. That soft, unlaced chukka has become so widespread in a few short years that some don’t even recognise them as a copy. 

I told him what they were, and said that I personally wouldn’t buy them. But of course that’s easy for me to say, as I could probably afford the original. How about if you can’t, and what damage does it really do? 

Over the past few years, as I’ve got to know the menswear industry from the inside and also developed some products, I’ve learnt more about the costs of copying and how it erodes some of the things we love about menswear. I thought it would be good to spell that out, as well as to raise the topic for more general discussion. 

In the end, the thing that really matters is that consumers recognise that they have some responsibility - that their purchasing decisions make a difference - and that they make informed decisions as a result. Rather than anyone telling anyone else what to do. 

A small menswear brand I know has been running for about five years. Their initial idea of starting in one category clothing fell through after 18 months, two suppliers and three samples. No one could quite make what they wanted. 

So they moved on, to their second priority, and that went better. They found a maker more easily, and had a clear view in how it could be worn, styled and become part of a modern wardrobe. It was successful. 

But the cost of the first failure took two years of success to pay back. The money spent on time (paying themselves a living wage) and samples was significant. Despite this, they continued to approach product development with the same rigour. 

Some products took three years to come to fruition, while others were simple and easy. Their belief was that only by making these products exactly what they wanted could they build a brand with a strong identity, that was sustainable in the long term. 

They were probably right, but how much easier would it have been to just go to a factory, ask about their standard model, and pick some colours - relying on style, marketing, and worst of all, price, to sell them?

Or, take a product they liked from another brand, give it to a factory, and ask them to copy it? Few factories would even blink at the request. Maybe someone would snip the label out to stop anyone feeling awkward, but that’s about it. 

This young brand is not bad at developing products - quite the opposite. Such volatility of development is common at big companies as well as small ones - including at a company like Loro Piana, which is known for its R&D. 

The problem with copies is that it makes all of this harder. Harder to make brave decisions, harder to take the time developing truly great products.

If you’re a fashion company that’s not in as rude health as Loro Piana - and there are a lot of them around these days - why spend the money and take the risk of making something original? Why not just make a pair of trainers that look like Common Projects (above), or those funny-looking Balenciagas? 

Or say you’re that young start-up, and after five years of working on your vision, you find you’re losing half your sales to copycats. Would you do the same with the next product again, just to be copied again? If the company closes, and you start another, would you take the same risks - particularly if you now have some more middle-aged responsibilities?

Copies kill creativity, and without that menswear would be a very drab place. 

Nothing’s really original though, right? Everything is just fashions going round, so isn’t everything just a copy of something else?

There’s certainly no clear line. If a Japanese repro brand takes a pair of US military chinos from 1941 that hasn’t been remade since, and replicates it, no one is going to call it a fake. At the opposite extreme, if Dior comes out with a trainer one season and Shein copies it the next, everyone does. 

So where’s the line? For our upcoming double-breasted winter coat, I took some elements from the body shape of a coat I have that was made in 1980. That’s a lot more recent than 1941, but it’s still 43 years ago - and as far as I know it hasn’t been sold since. Is that copying? How about if it was 1990, 2000, 2010?

Rather than saying something simplistic like ‘everything is a copy’, let’s focus on the subtleties - as we’re often good at doing on PS (very much to the credit of readers).

When artist Grayson Perry gave the Reith Lectures in 2013, the last one focused on the idea of originality. He said, to both paraphrase and simplify, that originality in art doesn’t really exist. Everyone copies or ‘is inspired by’ those around them and before them. 

But, he argued, the thing that separated an artist’s work was that it had a clear ‘voice’. It felt like one person, a different person, was speaking. This was more important than whether one artist's ideas were rather like another's.

I think this has some resonance with menswear, particularly if we’re talking about creativity. Some brands - often the ones we love and admire most - have a clear voice. I’d highlight ones like Stoffa, Rubato, Adret. Their cuts, colours and certainly outfits are such that you could say something feels ‘very Stoffa’ (see bottom image). 

By contrast, when you see a pair of trainers that look like Open Walks, often the website also looks a bit like Loro Piana. They use the same kind of colour theme, the same fonts. They’re not just mimicking the product, they’re mimicking the voice

There is no clear line here either, and many brands fall somewhere in between - but I still think it’s a useful concept. It’s a measure of Ralph Lauren’s design, for example, that everything is in some way a recreation (he has a whole city block of archive in Manhattan to copy from), and yet someone’s more likely to say ‘it’s very Ralph’ than about almost any other brand. 

A lot of the time, when someone buys a copy, they know it is for this reason. Perhaps even subconsciously, they know there’s nothing original going on with this brand - it looks like that other brand, but oh, that's nice it's cheaper. 

At the very least, I think someone who can afford the real thing shouldn't knowingly buy a copy. If they pay for real bespoke clothing, for example, they shouldn’t use the excuse that something else comes from a ‘big brand’. 

Whether someone with less money should do so, I leave entirely up to them. I bought fake watches when I was 20 years old, and frankly I wish I hadn’t, because it seems so cringeworthy now. But I understand why I did. 

Maybe those people should save up a bit more, until they can afford it. Maybe they should buy vintage or pre-owned, instead of rewarding a copycat. Perhaps they’re more likely to do so if they read articles like this and ones extolling the virtues of vintage. The thing that matters is they make an informed choice. 

It’s very easy to copy, very easy to sell things on price. It’s much harder to explain the damage it does. 

Some notes ahead of discussion in the comments:

  • I won't comment on whether any particular brands or products are making copycats or knock-offs. It's easy to do, but I think that loses the focus on the overall point and, in most cases, consumers know they're buying a knock-off or a cheaper version of something else
  • All designer brands are not Loro Piana, and some are certainly more cynical. But as we’ve covered before, they often still spend a lot on design
  • Tailoring is subtler, as there is less originality and much comes from a long tradition or community. But I still wouldn’t take a bespoke piece of clothing to a cheaper tailor to copy
  • There’s nothing wrong with a company selling ‘basics’, with little design involved and no copying. But none of us would enjoy menswear if the world was only that - just like we’d all miss physical retail if it went, and we therefore need to support it
  • Protection of designs is something I’ll cover in a separate article, and will enjoy doing so given my background in intellectual property journalism
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I’m a product designer. For us, even re-issues and redesigns from the original manufacturer are undesirable. We’re sticklers. Authenticity is everything.

But it’s difficult to explain to people outside of the industry why copies, dupes, replicas and generics as damaging. It’s also difficult for consumers to understand origin and history — often conflating price and brand with invention and originality.

So really, I think consumers should try to avoid products when:

1. They know a similar product already exists for a much longer time on market; and,
2. They see this product is clearly made worse and sold for less than another.

This is a sane and simple checklist for people wanting to consume more ethically.

I can’t blame a consumer for buying sticky tape instead of Scotch, a ballpoint instead of a Bic, or a sticky note instead of a Post-It. They’re not product designers. They haven’t spent a lifetime reading design books, visiting design museums and obsessing over design history.

Do you best to consume ethically, and we’ll be happy with that.

Tommy Mack

I bought Wickes own brand paint because it was slightly cheaper than Dulux. “I bet it’s the same paint in a different can. It’s probably even made in the same factory,” I thought.

Reader, it was like painting with watered down milk.

Ty Johnson

The funny thing is, I was dressing very RL before there was an RL, his style is a ‘copy’ of preceding time periods. As to the shoes in the article… are they not ‘dusters’… ‘wallabies’… just with a color sole? It is fit and finish that makes a product. My biggest complaint is ‘high fashion workwear’… a failure in concept and execution, too expensive to work in while not holding up to the grind of use.

Eric Michel

I still remember the first time I tried to lie about a pair of shoes. It was a really good copy of the Weston 180 loafer which was a must have in the 80’s in Paris. But it was way too expensive for me at the time. I bought a really nice copy at a fraction of the price. And then few months later a posh guy spotted them at work and asked me casually for the size. I gave it in the French system. Then he insisted to have the UK size, which was the reference used by Weston. I did not have any clue, it was a copy! The guy looked at me and I saw he knew. I felt so humiliated it still makes me uncomfortable 40 years later. Then I have just one piece of advice: never buy a copy, either you can afford the real thing, either buy the best quality product you can afford with an original design you like. This has been my strategy ever since, and it has brought me peace and satisfaction.

PS: two years later I bought my first pair of Weston, and I am a 7.5…


 “… either you can afford the real thing, either buy the best quality product you can afford with an original design you like.”
Great advice. I’d like to add, always buy new!


Why always buy new?

Ty Johnson

That is a good point! My style started in movie/TV costume shops, you know, just like a big-name designer did. We saw the style and it was there, the real stuff, before it became collectible.

Ty Johnson

‘… buy the best quality you can afford’ is the best quote, and sometimes the ‘name’ ain’t it.

Ty Johnson

Sometimes the ‘real thing’ is not the best you can buy… because we are speaking shoes here, visit some of the shoe/boot sites as they delve into the construction of leather products. You will be surprised at how many products are not worth their price point, despite the name on the label. Just need to ask here, did the shoe hold up reasonable well?


One thing I’d like to throw in:
As someone who started getting in to classic menswear as a student, so with notable financial barriers, as well as living in Germany, so quite a limited location for menswear, I definetly get the appeal of copies and will admit to having bought some in the past.
That might have been because a certain brand was inaccesible in my country (eg. a Tailor or something like Stoffa) or because I simply thought I couldnt afford the real thing. Maybe even because a product was simply discontinued and sold out (god, I still hate myself for missing the black Anfa Polos).
One thing I found remarkable though was, that each and every time I’d bought a copy or tried to save a few cents here and there, how inferior the product really was. The cut might be roughly similar, but the material is worse or viceversa. Copies just never seem to really get the balance between design, cut & material completely right. They might get to 80%, but not more. Probably because they did not go through these many iterations of product design and sampling.
For me, this often led to actually spending more money in the long run, since I bought something I was not 100% happy with and wanted to replace further down the line. It did however help hone my taste and actually appreciate the real products more. So, in a way, copies might help to actually pinpoint all the details that are special about the original.


That is true Simon, but I am now a bit further down the road.
Managed to buy the Navy one this summer and absolutely love it.

Ty Johnson

Polo shirts is a thing… some are so poor quality at a high price, while run-of-the-mill ( comparatively ) is a better fit and tailoring. Usage is important, will it last 3, 5, or 10 years and still look good? The ease of style is in the wear, not the closet.


I would add some general comments that expand on what Simon wrote.
Having worked at a “fashion” (children’s ware mostly mind you) group at the beginning of my career I can attest that the creative process is often based on iterative/”inspiration” steps that sometime border on copy. At the designer level it is common for mid tier brands to budget travel (in my time Japan was one of the favourite destinations) and shopping to build a collection. High tier collection often come as a declinaison of the haute couture, or use expensive “trends books”, that look for inspiration in art and popular culture. At the purchase/production level it is quite common that factories present models they do for other brands (esp. jeans) to show what they are able to do at a price point.

Often the real challenge is in creating a coherent collection and a collection coherent with a brand identity and its declinaisons (retails, website etc.). That is where, RL has been best in class over the last 30 years. Anyone can do a Polo but not anyone can keep a strong brand identity over so many lines, and after such a long time. Very few people realise how difficult it is, for a designer/brand, to stay relevant after 4/5 years.

Lastly, as a client I think it is best and more ethical to value creativity and style. In my opinion there is a strong mental benefit to know exactly why you are dressed as you are. When you took the time to research brands/makers aligned with your personal style you have much more self- confidence (and that is part of why we care about clothes) that when you followed a trend let alone when you bought a copy to follow a trend.


I just find it dispiriting when big luxury brands clearly copy a competitor, even if admittedly they all probably all LVMH owned anyway. It generally puts me off the brand that does it. You do want to think you are funding creativity, not copying.
I have less bother with, say, Jones Bootmaker doing it. A couple of years ago I bought a £99 pair of burgundy loafers from Jones as a deliberate trial, planning to upgrade to Alden cordovan if I felt I could make the colour work for me (I did). I can understand why a £99 pair of Summer Walk knock-offs would appeal for the same reason.


It’s very difficult to objectively define what is a copy. Nothing is truly original, everything is inspired by something else (or if you like, built upon). This applies to all areas, not just clothing.

Some designs have little development cost, for example varying the proportions of lapels, gorges, width and length on tailoring. We copy others’ designs all the time here, you’ve talked yourself Simon about how you’ve chosen a particular cloth because you saw it on somebody else. This sort of copying doesn’t seem to incur much of a cost to the original producer. It might even flatter the person who inspired such a garment.

However if a company designs a whole new product, with a different structure it probably costs quite a bit. Copying here seems more damaging. The law itself tries to protect against this sort via copyright and patent protection. So perhaps a good rule of thumb is to ask if a given copy would have broken those laws or not. Those laws contain centuries of debates and what is and isn’t a copy. About what adds or destroys value.


Whilst the large companies claim R&D and originality as the reasons for their pricing structure, does a set of Open Walks at €1000+ a pair really represent good value for the consumer? Like any luxury item, be it designer handbags or Swiss watches, there is no real justification for the pricing. Most are mass produced goods and they simply charge as much as they want to, because a high price means exclusivity and luxury in the eyes of the consumer.
With a nickname like ‘The Billionaire Loafer’, it’s no wonder everybody wants a pair of Open Walks. Who doesn’t want to feel like a billionaire?
For some perspective, LVMH’s annual revenue is somewhere around €85 Billion. I find it hard to justify an expensive luxury purchase on moral grounds, when there are smaller makers and artisans who charge similar prices, making more exclusive pieces, who are likely more appreciative of my custom.


Hi Simon I worked and work more than 20 years in top luxury retail and rest assured we they do charge as much as we can get away with its very simple…… you make people want it and the rest just follows noone on this planet needs a jacket for 5000 or a pair of spazzolato fashion shoes for 1200 but if I hammerthis delicately subtlety and with vigour in peoples heads it works……… Having said this not all top brands are as shameless as others…..I am not joining the discussion about quality as this opens another dimension entirely….


For context, the owner of LVMH is the richest person in the world. Does he bring anything new to the table or just buy luxury companies, hike prices and prey in the naive?
For true artisans, i see your point. For a LVMH, sorry, I don’t!


If a design is truly “original” then the designer can get legal protection for their intellectual property. The fact that this never happens, because almost everything is derivative- the Open Walk is just a classic desert boot without laces (albeit with luxury materials and 8-10x markup).


we entered a new level of luxury marketing about 10 years ago where outrageous, completely unjustifiable (taking into consideration all the usual rationales–materials, r&d, brand price, if we’re being honest) pricing is part of the appeal. now that fashion marketing relies almost exclusively on influencers and views we have phenomena like $8k rtw suiting, a completely fluffed high end watch market (tell me there is genuine demand warranting rolex prices), cars where a $1m the $2m now $33m prices are anything more than click bait. the fashion business is just financial engineering now–is there anyone making a statement that actually moves markets these days. has anyone made an impact similar to what armani did 40 odd years ago?


I don’t buy vintage but in the context of reading the above I might now be warming a little more to the concept of good vintage clothing or footwear. You’re a least getting the real deal here.
I have genuinely seen appalling copies of Trickers shoes in a shoe shop in a local town not far from me. That shop is now closed. Any wonder. I remember my mother buying me a pair of pigskin sandals in a shoe shop in a seaside resort in Northern Ireland. They were cheap and nasty and smelt ….like cheap pigskin. They fell apart.
Look, the point is simple and plain.
I or my wife walks into a clothing store or a shoe shop looking for proper and decent apparel…right?
We pay, like many, our hard earned cash, and expect a decent genuine and original product, original or vintage but well made and worth the money.
My advice, be sensible and be careful. Exercise common sense when buying.
I not talking about where it’s made, be it in the UK, Europe, America or Asia…as long as it’s properly manufactured to a decent standard …and original.
That’s why Permanent Style is a great resource to discover many worthy brands and their reviews in many cases.


“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”


True and that leads us to a wider debate on capitalism.
With the world moving towards corporates , large ‘unions’ , globalisation etc etc all being enthused by the rhetoric of a kind of “We Are The World” , “One Love” culture …. We each need to think where we are being led to and what the alternatives are .
The message from media is corporate PR influenced … so what chance does the ‘little guy’ really have ?

Difficult issues.

Peter Smith Wright

Interesting thoughts, Simon, but are you overthinking this?
Somebody may buy a Rolex copy because they can’t afford the real thing. Does this mean that Rolex will sell less watches? Is it passing off or not?
A “close approximation” at an affordable price can be OK, and indeed the buyer may not even be aware of the “original”. Maybe they just like the look of something? Does this mean less of the “original” will be sold?
Most high street fashion labels bring out their “version” of catwalk. Does this mean less catwalk will be sold?
Passing off is illegal. Cheaper lookalikes are not.


„… not as far as being illegal, which of course they are or they wouldn’t be happening“
I am not sure I understand this. I am pretty sure exact copying must be illegal. Zara (or Inditex as a whole) has a huge legal department looking at every new item, to decide whether it has enough deviations to prevent a lawsuit. In a documentary I saw, an ex-designer of Zara told, that they had to do at least five small deviations (from the originals they bought as samples) or the legal department would have rejected it.


I don’t think we disagree. I just wanted to state, that copying is illegal. I think it is a repulsive business model. Not only for legal reasons of course. We all know about the environmental impact etc. An they are not doing it only with clothes but also with popular perfumes, which are very obvious and cheap copies.


I forgot to mention: They also copy from very small companies and try to get away with no deviations at all, because they speculate that the small company doesn’t have the money to risk at a lawsuit. So they just speculate with getting away with it.

Tommy Mack

And of course, fast fashion is fuelling the market for cheap copies by persuading people they need tons of new clothes so have to spread their money very thin rather than buying less and better.


In regards to Zara, they did lose a case a couple of years ago with a small Danish brand (well I’m not sure how small but certainly way smaller than Zara):

Peter Smith Wright

Ok so who “invented” the shawl collar cardigan? Everyone and his wife offer them now.

Does that mean, based on your logic, that someone somewhere is loosing out?


Many, many iconic styles are derived from fairly blatant copying. Really, that’s how something spreads throughout the culture / a subculture! Not everyone was making it to Brooks Brothers, but there were other purveyors of 3 roll 2 sack suits and OCBDs. Alden isn’t the only choice for a tassel loafer. Etc. That’s really how fashion moves, it’s a language of communication rather than the domain of the designer who Got There First.

The basic questions for me are whether a copy is itself well made and styled, or is purely a cheap knockoff that is inferior in construction and design; and whether the purpose of the item is its role in an aesthetic or to deceive the viewer into believing that it is something that it isn’t. That’s why a quality vintage repro is good and a Folex is bad.

I don’t personally see much to like about the open walk but it’s clear that Venetian loafers with dress sneaker soles are in the current fashion moment – as long as the imitator is well made, I see no reason to avoid it.


Hi Simon, Its an interesting conundrum you raise in this article. I think it’s important to separate copying from fakes. I have have a strong dislike for the latter, including what is probably terrible working conditions for production and evidently the proceeds are going into organised crime or worse. The proliferation of fake Dior tote bags when I was recently on holiday in the Greek islands was a bit sad – it just devalues the whole thing. For example: a woman once asked my wife where she bought her Goyard bag, my wife replied their shop in Mount St, to which the woman replied ‘oh it’s a real one’! A bit dispiriting!
As for copying that is a far more subtle thing. I think when it’s so close as to look like an imitation I think that also has a devaluing effect and stifles innovation, however it’s a fine line. Budget constraints may encourage people to buy similar looking things but are not fakes and I don’t feel comfortable being judgemental if they do. I think it’s very much a personal thing around how you feel in what you buy and wear.
Coincidentally, and to underpin your point, just prior to reading the article my wife left our home wearing a navy blazer, light blue blouse, chinos (I don’t know where from) Tods shoes a Goyard bag ( yes that one!); I remarked she looked very Ralph Lauren today – and yet not an item was from RL.


Hi Simon, just a follow up to let you know that I did untick the box by the ‘post comment’ box, but not receiving alerts by email when comment published or replied. I wonder if other readers are experiencing this. Not a big thing but just thought you would like to know.

Robert M

It’s intuitive to say that copies make life harder for original designers, but actually we’d need some market research to back it up – because, on reflection, it’s not obvious at all, at least for luxury items. It’s equally as likely that people who buy cheaper knock-offs wouldn’t have bought the extremely pricey original in the first place. So the income and profits of the original designer would stay exactly the same. And let’s remember that nobody has a right to any amount of income or profit anyway.
I of course appreciate that, while the above might sound reasonable for a company like Loro Piana, it might not for a small start-up competing in the same price range as their copycats. But again, some research would be nice. I’m sure there’s lots of it.

Robert M

All good points, thanks Simon. I’ll try to find some research on the topic – if I won’t forget!


That’s a very interesting point, actually. A cheaper copy of an expensive item would draw a different consumer, and the proliferation of copies could even make the original MORE popular by spreading the style and making the genuine article more desirable. Would be interesting to see numbers.


I hope you wouldn’t buy open walks as they are incredibly naff, ugly and revolve a lot around price signalling!


I’d like to know more about how this effects small(er) businesses.
Loro Piana and others brands with notably copied pieces, like Balenciaga and Common Projects, are victims of their own success and successful marketing, which spawn dozens of imitations as well as fakes. To my mind, this is just how the cycle of fashion works for large companies.
Do you have an example of how copying has effected smaller labels or start ups? For example, if Massimo Dutti started making knitwear in the style of Rubato or Stoffa, I doubt many Dutti buyers would even realise. I also doubt many of Rubato or Stoffas customers would abandon these brands in favour of the cheaper alternative, but perhaps I’m wrong about this!


Very interesting, thank you!

Much like local businesses, you need to support the ones you want to keep.


Re Common Projects, I can’t see anything original or unique as their over-priced products look like those sold by other brands in the 60s and 70s. My question is who is copying who and who is the real victim?

Peter Hall

I think it’s a risk for any new business to deviate too far from the profitable norm -which at the moment seem to be either derivative RL or work wear. With the influence of RL design having a stranglehold ,and it’s noticeable how little success contemporaries (Gant,Brookes etc) have. RL marketing being the decisive factor.

Where is the creative line? RL copies- in the sense they didn’t invent either the loafer or the OCBD. They have archives full of military styled workwear.

So,is creativity really resident in marketing? Is that where the creative movers and shakers now ,err , create . Are new fabrics just set dressing? Has true design creativity moved to accessories -belts,jewellery ,hats,scarves. Areas which are present in PS.

I can remember many RL campaigns – the clothes not so much.

This is not to excuse the rampant copying that occurs but it’s self defeating as you never take ownership of it. I’m fortunate to own and cherish a few original designs ( for example ,my Gibson SG: Brookes button down and a Olympus OM1). I’d rescue these in a house fire…some of my other perfectly adequate modern equivalents…not so much.

Peter Hall

Stimulating response ,Simon. Thanks.
I’m a design nerd,so ,yes,please do.

I’m always fascinated by how you can design to attract the market, Leaving aside warmth or waterproofing, such as texture,openness,weave …our restricted colour palette .

It would be interesting to have a discussion with a designer on how they consider a fabric would be a success. Although, I have a hazy memory of you writing about this before.

Tommy Mack

Fellow Gibson SG player here!

Guitar design has some interesting parallels to this discussion. For anyone who started playing in their teens, their first electric guitar was almost certainly a cheap copy of a Fender Stratocaster.

There are Strat inspired designs at all price points, from beginner junkers to luxury custom shop models (and indeed a big brand like Fender has multiple ranges, a bit like, say RL having Chaps, Polo, RRL, purple label etc but with more duplication across the brand).

Some of the high end stuff may well be better than some of the originals but I think I’m right in saying that none of the respected models are direct copies*: all the good ones have at least some aspect of original design while still paying homage/riding on the coattails of Leo Fender.

Even if you’re a punky inverted snob about gear, you’d go for quirkier overlooked models and porn shop obscurities (think Kurt Cobain) rather than a cheapo copy of a famous model. That seems similar to a lot of comments on this thread: drawing some inspiration is fine, out and out copying is naff (I’ve heard of guys in bands buying a cheap copy, sanding the logo off the headstock and stencilling on their own Fender or Gibson logo!)

Mind you, the most copied guitar designs are 60-70 years old (I think I’m right in saying that the very first (Japanese) copies of US made guitars appeared 10-15 years after the originals – some of the better ones can themselves command a reasonable vintage price) In terms of more recent models, there have been some lawsuits over how close is too close a copy! E.g.

*Strictly speaking none of them should be exact copies as the guitars’ profiles are trademarked but given there’s so much variation within the ‘real’ models, I think this is often overlooked, as per the article linked above.


About copying a copy. I’m sure you know Maison Margiela made a number of apparel that imitated “found” items and this was core of their concept. One example is a copy of the now famous german army trainer that they named “Replica”. After that there have been a ton of imitations of that design from various brands. Are these brands imitating the MM Replica sneaker or are they imitating the army trainer that MM imitated? I think this is quite morally ambiguous and you could easily argue one way or another.

You focus a lot on the economical aspect in this article and it’s justified because obviously most imitation is motivated by it. But what about when the copy is of significantly superior quality or fits you better than original?


I feel like there is a line between inspiration and copying. My day to day watch is a Seiko Alpinist. It draws some design queues from the Rolex Explorer (the original Alpinist was released the same decade as the Explorer) but is different enough and has enough unique features to be its own watch. Whereas I would feel cheap and tacky wearing a fake Rolex or a brand that does an exact replica.

It’s also worth highlighting that there are some more affordable brands with good original design that are not just copying other brands. I feel that some of the brands featured in Manish’s article on suits under £1,000 do a good job at this – Spier & Mackay and Cavour have even gone as far as having custom woven fabrics. As a consumer that cannot afford many of the brands featured on PS I would rather buy from a lower priced brand that is making something unique than one that’s just imitating a more expensive brand.


The counterargument is that the lack of IP rights for fashion design actually helps the fashion industry because it accelerates the diffusion of innovations and styles, leading to a shorter trend cycle. This causes style-conscious consumers to purchase additional new items, which benefits innovative designers, manufacturers, and retailers, offsetting some of the damage from cheaper competitor imitations that you emphasize. The net effect of no IP could still be negative, perhaps especially for permanent menswear brands, but I am not sure if that has been settled conclusively. Giving brands limited monopoly power could lead to the sorts of problems like we have seen with telescoping copyright extension in the US.

Fakes seem like a different beast (even with buyer awareness), with correspondingly different protections and penalties for producers and counterfeiters.


The classic reference for explaining why low IP and high innovation is a stable equilibrium in fashion is Raustiala, Kal, and Christopher Sprigman. “The piracy and paradox: Innovation and intellectual property in fashion design.” Va. L. Rev. 92 (2006): 1687.

There is a pdf at

There is a nice, albeit dated, discussion of EU vs US differences in regulation that does not seem to show up in litigation, as well as other goods that have this pattern (furniture, recipes, haircuts). Most of the examples are from big womenswear brands, but you may still find it an interesting read.


Raustiala and Sprigman are providing an explanation for the political stability of apparel’s low IP regime rather than arguing that the regime is necessarily more profitable for all or any subset designers. More importantly, they propose a theoretical model without empirical analysis.


I would disagree with your interpretation on two points.

First, they argue that the loss from low IP cannot be significant for the industry or even the median firm that belongs to a trade organization. If the fashion industry wanted to end this, they would devote resources to lobbying for the same kinds of copyright extension or expansion as the boat hull and semiconductor manufacturers and architects, and replicate the anti-piracy efforts of music, software, publishing, movie trade associations (like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in the US). They would take copying brands and the manufacturers who enable them to court as they do with trademark infringement and counterfeiting. At the international level, they would push their representatives to negotiate strict bilateral IP treaties, like the Agreement on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“TRIPS”), which ties signatories’ enforcement of minimum IP standards to the World Trade Organization’s powerful dispute resolution mechanisms. We don’t see that, so the gains from doing that must be small for the median firm.

They say this stable equilibrium could leave some brands, like Simon’s, worse off. I suspect that because he is making uncyclical/timeless clothes, he does not benefit from his designs going out of style from imitation and does not copy designs himself. Arguably, the same cannot be said for the LP-sized firms, so advocating for boycotting imitation shoes is strange to me since the net harm to LP may be small and since it ignores the consumer benefits from cheaper though lower/same quality items.

I found the discussion of first-mover advantage interesting and the prediction that fast(er) fashion cannot erode that too much since it will still take some time for copiers to learn which items are worth imitating, even if they have the tech to replicate them in a very short period. So, 1-2 years of (part-time?) development still gives the original producer some period monopoly-like pricing power.

Second, while I don’t think this research is the most robust evidence on earth, there is more here than a mere theoretical model. There is history, many real-world examples/anecdotes, multiple lines of evidence, and cross-country comparisons. It’s undoubtedly suggestive and thoughtful. I also found it hard to come up with an ideal, feasible experiment where we could compare the low-IP and high-IP states of the world. I am curious if you have something in mind that I am missing.


It’s a very interesting topic. I find it hard to talk specifically about the open walks mainly because I find those “not to my taste” to be very polite about them.
But I have got another example, now that you also mentioned watches: I really like the aesthetics of a Rolex Explorer. I really like that combination of the black dial and those numerals… but just those. I have seen for example the Smiths Everest, even though it’s “the same” watch if you listen to all the watch YouTubers, it just doesn’t click for me. I couldn’t care less about Rolex’s heritage or the “soul” of a mechanical watch (and I have tried to care about the mechanical aspect but I just don’t). I am also very far from being able to responsibly afford one of course.
So if I happened to walk past a window and saw something with those exact aesthetics (it does not have to be a fake; I care more about the numerals than the crown on top), a quartz movement inside and of course a friendlier price and availability… I don’t know if I would buy it, but I would certainly be very tempted.


Yes, it is like that. It’s certainly more subtle than design aspects of a shoe, but it sprang to mind right away after reading the article.

Max Alexander

I remember once waiting at the Shenzhen station for the train to Guangzhou and being approached by a guy proudly selling “genuine Rolex copy watch.” Something about his lack of guile impressed me.

Separately, back in my art school days it was widely understood that American fashion designers would get inspiration for their “original” lines by hanging around the East Village (or even venturing up to Providence and the RISD campus) and copying what art students were wearing—generally speaking, wild mashup thrift shop ensembles, often with handmade accessories. Which begs the question, who’s copying who?


Is there anything inherently wrong with talking a clothing product and changing it to suit a different market? Take Levi’s 501s. There are plenty of high end Japanese companies that basically copy these stich for stich, but at a higher quality level, to appeal to a different sort of consumer. On the other end of the things, there plenty of cheap high street bands that do the same thing, but at a lower quality level, again targeting a different part of the market. I think both approaches are fine.

The LP Walks are perhaps not the best example to use. There a fairly unique design, with a very strong association to a particular brand. But the vast majority of menswear items (of the sort PS reads might wear) aren’t like this – there slightly tweaked iterations of what’s already be done a thousand times.


So copying to elevate is ok but copying to undercut is a problem?

Have certainly known artisans who’d strongly disagree having seen their products blatently copied in higher end materials and much higher end price points both of which were inaccessible to them as a fledgling business without large financial backers.


I think the concept of “authenticity” is an interesting one to add to this discussion. By authenticity, I don’t necessarily mean just the origin or provenance of a particular design or piece (although it includes those elements). It also ties back into your idea of the “voice” of the designer and the story they are trying to tell. A few examples. To me, something like a Schott Perfecto feels more authentic than a double rider from a more fashion focused brand. The fashion brand’s leather jacket may use similar quality materials and construction (and could very well be more expensive). But Schott has the history of its involvement in motorcycle culture behind it and that history is an inherent part of the products it makes. I think this also relates to your point about a repro brand like Real McCoy’s. Yes, they make copies of 80 year chinos. But they have also devoted time, energy and money to researching the history behind the design, finding the right fabrics and hardware. Their love of the original is what gives their product authenticity. Of course, authenticity isn’t always easy to identify in a particular product and can definitely fall into the “If you know, you know” category (as I think it does with a simple design like the LP shoes). But for menswear nerds, doing the research and learning about a company or designer’s story and the history behind a particular design is all part of the fun! The authenticiy adds value to the end product which a copy just can’t offer.
I would also be interested in hearing your (and other’s) opionion on the differences between copying and appropriation. Being Canadian, I could use Cowichan sweaters as an example. Many brands have made Cowichan style knitwear. But the design’s connection to the Coast Salish First Nations people and their fight to protect the Cowichan name are very important parts of its history. Similar points could be made about Fair Isle sweaters or blanket fabrics based on Navajo designs. Or what about a luxury brand charging $600+ for something like a pair of huaraches, a centuries old sandal design you can still find in local markets in Mexico for about $20? Is the luxury brand copying? Appropriating? Is it really adding anything new to the history of the design and its authenticity?


You mention the intellectual property angle but that is also a contested topic. Patents, trademarks and designs do not necessarily foster innovation. There are many academic studies showing that societies without strong IP systems can develop faster (e.g. Japan or Korea after WWII and the Korea war). It stimulates a faster market introduction and thus encourages innovation in a different way. It is only when a society matures industrially that they adopt strong IP systems. And even then, opponents of the current IP protection system abound. For example, Elon Musk and Tesla.


If you have not seen it please watch “Everything Is a Remix” available on a Youtube channel near you.
Led Zeppelin copied black blues artists, who had copied each other even more so than Zeppelin copied them.
What upset everyone was when the money became enormous.
Artistic inspiration can innovative and more regularly a pastiche, you call Ralph Lauren whichever you chose.
Is a navy blue d/b jacket, novel, is it a pastiche whoever makes it?
The difference with knock-offs is they are trading completely on being another product.
Loro Piana Open Walk Chukka boots are not original pieces of art work, they look like orthopaedic versions of a Chukka boots, which could easily have been designed by Hush Puppies or Primark. They are a rework of a Chukka boot which goes back to desert boots in WWII, and I suspect someone will pre-date that.
Remember “Everything is a remix,” so artistic integrity is dubious except for the exceptional few. Apple the great innovators copied all their original technical ideas from Xerox.
Back to the original point. Knock-offs are trading on the brand of someone else. Most of the purchasers are cognisant that the product is highly unlikely to be original manufacturer nor quality.
So we get back to what is a brand, a brand was a mark to show origination and so identifying the quality of manufacture. Not design and much less so how much had been spent on marketing.
With knock-off safety equipment, such as tyres, you can not expect the same level of safety knock off Bic pens ( I saw a program on it, that’s why included) do not work, but do deplete the sales of real Bic pens, because the price differential is not so great and the detriment to the brand greater because they were confused with the original.
An fake Hermes Birkin Bag on purchase is unlikely to be mistaken for an original. And in truth the fakes now enhance the value of the original.
Permanent Style has always talked about the intrinsic values of a product. The quality of materials, effort taken by artisans to ensure fit for purpose, fit to the body and ultimately enhancing the appearance.
Who made it is of little consequence, if the intrinsic qualities are there. The people who made it are of value because of the product.
With marketing and fashion, it is who made it and not the intrinsic value of the product. Most fashion styles are designed to influence the purchaser to buy intrinsically cheaper products.
Louis Vuitton started work in 1837, the company can now sell dubious perfumes and watches because he made exceptional luggage, but that has taken 185 years of careful brand management. Now they can trade on the brand because it is now synonymous with quality.
Start ups are going to have a tough time, stick to the knitting of making intrinsically good products. Copies will be of less quality, but you have to ride that storm.
Keep pushing the quality and you will get fans who will want to have the original and will come to you. Those who will buy copies were never your customers.

Matthew V

“Keep pushing the quality and you will get fans who will want to have the original and will come to you. Those who will buy copies were never your customers.”
That is extremely well written sentiment!


Thanks for reading to the end, I didn’t think anyone would.


I did also read it through, even if I was still laughing at “an orthopaedic version of a chukka boot that could be designed by primark”, which pretty much matches my opinion of the open walks!


For me, at least, the key here is the point made about the ‘voice’ of an artwork, or what I refer to as the spirit or intent of a product or piece. And it is such an ineffable quality that words fail completely to but attempt to clumsily categorise as ‘homage’ or ‘copying’.
At an instinctive level, however, it is often clear which is which. That while today’s penny loafers and GH Bass’ original shared design DNA is obvious, nobody would call them facsimiles. The supervening differences are what make it a distinctive product in its own right.
My suggestion is that because high levels of craftsmanship are inexorably tied to creativity. Someone cannot make a new product to a really high standard without imbuing it with a particular sense of style or purpose that alters it from the original that inspired it.
Very different from base reproduction.


I think part of the reason people are looking at copies of the Open Walk in particular is the more or less 100% price increase that’s occurred over a period of a few years. I know Derek Guy and George Wang discussed this topic on twitter, and I’ve seen some other owners of LP shoes moving to various copies, just because they think LMVH has gone crazy with the pricing. And if the clients themselves doesn’t find value in paying for the brand anymore, ultimately, isn’t that the brands fault?
As a counter point, I’m more put off wearing my LP shoes nowadays as the design is absolutely everywhere and usually worn in a very unflattering way, with skin tight suit trousers and logo belts.
I do believe in paying for originality and design. Indeed one of the big perks of Stòffa for instance, are their unique fabrics. Everyone offers pique shirts these days, but I’ve never come across a pique fabric quite like theirs. Or their flannels. Having said that, sometimes the original doesn’t work and all we’re left with are copies. Should we then refrain from wearing it at all? Take the B&L Sagans, they just don’t work for me as they’re too slim (apart from the Lune, please bring it back, Alan). So if I want that style of shoe I have to turn to copy cats.
2 final thoughts on LP shoes in particualar:

  • I just find it fascinating how hype creates hype. 10 years ago everyone thought they were ugly old men shoes, now everyone wants them.
  • What I find interesting is a lot of the copy cats even claim to produce in the same factory, which should be easy enough for someone of LVMH’s/LP’s size to prevent if true?

I’m looking forward to the follow up piece, as you’ve worked with this, and also experienced it yourself, given how many “friday polo” options graced the online menswear world for a while.

Paul F

I am also part of the consumers who owned some LP Open Walk and got quite upset over the insane price increase without having the quality go up at the same time. As a result, I did purchase some knock-offs from two makers with which I’m perfectly happy. Is that making a dent in LP’s P&L, barely but I get Simon’s point very well.

I guess I apply different rules to different companies as I wouldn’t buy the knock-offs of Baudoin and Lange’s Belgian loafers. They’ve done something really well and have good customer service. Should they decide to double their prices without any justification, I’d see it differently.

So in my case, the perceived value plays a major role.


Out of curiosity (if Simon will allow it), how does the copies stack up to the original?


I would just add that B&L didn’t invent Belgian loafers either, yet they became the de facto standard here on PS. Not because of their originality but, presumably, because of the fact they make them very well.


I know they did not invent the belgian loafer, but the look of the sagan itself exploded once B&L launched it. And they didn’t seem to care about the copies of their specific design until another high end shoemaker down the street introduced a virtually similar model, in which case Alan took to instagram personally to share his views. But I think that post has since been deleted.


that’s precisely the point though. They didn’t invent the design, they “just” popularized it in those last few years.


The Sagans are not at all an original model, don’t feel bad about using a (different) copy!


Really interesting article Simon, one of my favourites recently. There are a lot of layers in this question:
On one hand, the open walks don’t seem like anything groundbreaking. They are a few commonly available elements put together. Anyone could have done it. Of course, not anyone did.
And even if someone else did it, it might not have been the same hit – LP has benefits from their brand and logistics advantages. LP has made investments that now allow them to take a fairly simply product and make it a hit. They definitely worked for their hit.
So if you just take the design LP created, and turned into a hit with their brand and logistics, and copy it, that seems like a jerk move. Not illegal, but jerk move.
But what if you add something? A local brand in Sweden offer loafers and chukkas in the style of LP open walks, but they are blake stitched instead of cemented. They are adding their own product knowledge to the LP idea AND they are charging a quarter of the LP does. That starts to seem like a different offer than just copying LPs idea. And of course, at some point, it stops being copying LP and just doing what “everyone does”.

As for the copying hurting the creator of the original, it seems likely it does. It’s not just about stealing business from the innovator; the people who buys $25 open walk copies on Alibaba was probably never going to buy the real thing (unless they bought the knockoff to see if they like the style). But flooding the market with cheap copies can still drive people away from the original.
This is one of the (relevant) issues often brought up with cultural appropriation as well: if Zara makes $5 “Navajo-inspired” jewelry, that doesn’t compete directly with Harpo Paris. But the people who can buy from Harpo may be less inclined to do so if Navajo jewelry becomes associated with fast fashion, cheap junk and consumer culture. I know we often like to claim otherwise in the #menswear sphere, but people are effected by public perception, and clothing is a social language.


That’s a good move with the Blake stitching, if you can resole them all of a sudden it is a more sensible buy than the original.

Matthew V

Wow, a lot to consider. I occasionally bought copies, or inspirations of the ‘real thing’ in the distant past, but as funds allowed invariably bought the originals. Now I always try to buy the originator unless it is crazily marked up….actually I probably haven’t done that, bought a direct copy, but I might look for something from an alternative brand or manufacturer, a little more original / unusual, not a copy.
I do fully appreciate that copying a design erodes the effort and finances of the originator, I understand this can happen in tailoring design as well as specific products such as shoes.
Inspirational dressing is I guess a little different – as with the odd copy product, I bought from places like Reiss before I could afford real tailoring and such companies provide an entry level to men interested in clothes. But I know that companies like that have at times sailed close to the wind with designs….
Another interesting angle is when a brand / creator works with another company to create a cheaper entry – the Swatch / Omega collaboration comes to mind. A copy made with the support of the originator.

Jim Bainbridge

The example that immediately comes to mind is recognisable designs that are still made by the original brand and sold at a significant markup – like the horsebit loafer – and copied both at a lower price point (thinking of one popular brand that seems to be doing very well out of this at the moment), but also at a higher one. Is craft ever sufficient justification for buying what is essentially a copycat product? I realise that what makes this easier in many cases is that a higher end shoemaker is likely to incorporate features that a lower end maker would not – etc.


Hi Simon,
Thank you for these interesting thoughts. Great as always. I struggle with two components of copying designs: Is the price-cutting most problematic, or is it the copying of designs? It seems small, start-up brands often take something popular or iconic and make tweaks to fit their own vision.
As an example, Baudoin and Lange are very similar to Belgian loafers, as are CQP to Common Projects. Both brands have been covered on this site. Or British shoe brands making Alden-style loafers. Since these operate in a similar price range, they could be argued to really take a bite of the market that the first brands have built for themselves. Similarly, I am not sure who started making tailored pants with drawstrings, but that brand is probably also unhappy with so many copying that idea.

I personally think that time is an important factor. After a few years, a distinctive piece of innovative design becomes an own category, a reference point, free for other people to reinterpret without being judged as copycats. That way tennis shoes, wax jackets, sweatshirts and OCBD:s can be reinterpreted even though they have been once been closely associated with one brands’ innovation.


Is it harmful to purchase P Johnson outerwear instead of Loro Piana outwear?
Look forward to the next instalment – after the philosophical, the legal nitty gritty!


I’m glad you decided to write a piece on this actually Simon, from me (the initial reader in question at the start). Was temporarily concerned when my reply back to you was not approved, so this was a good, surprising read.
I completely agree people shouldn’t knowingly buy the lesser if they can afford the original (if we can define originals and copies objectively). Where I disagree is the implied conflation between what is a ‘cheaper knock-off’ and a more affordable, viable alternative. Watches and the shoes mentioned are good examples. Why would anyone buy a fake Rolex? I never would, but menswear/fashion generally has limitless nuance, which you hinted at e.g. if the more affordable shoes are made in similarly sustainable materials, methods, supply chain, etc (to a good minimum standard we all approve of generally), then you’re only not paying for the fact that the original was the original and the brand. What if you couldn’t care less about the brand? If they’re too expensive and consumers prefer affordable alternatives, isn’t that the problem of the original brand?
I think it is ‘easy to say’ when you can afford the original, but is it really wrong at all that those with less disposable income should be deprived of a ‘look’ that is available to them elsewhere? Is it wrong, say, for someone to buy a Primark shirt with the collar style of Turnbull & Asser? I can’t say it is at all, as much as I too – with you – suggest they save instead and go for premium. The original proper brand is better, but what if you actually care more about the look for less than about original for original sake?
I don’t love that that’s the way it is actually, but that is market capitalism at work. Doing (buying) the right thing is often the privilege of the richer man, alas.
In conclusion, I agree with almost everything you’ve said, and it might look like I’ve made some hypocritical points, but I also think your argument would hold more water where genuine intellectual property is concerned if there’s a place for it in fashion at all. Passing off is wrong, but catering to consumer demand more competitively is what the economy boils down ultimately.
Looking forward to the next article on design protection.

Edwin Rothengatter

Hi Simon,

I’v always tried doing this except for my watch. I love the design of a Rolex submariner. The way Rolex AD’s work and the horrible price to quality ratio cured me from trying to own one in the near future. (I’m also in no position to spend 10k on a watch at the moment). Instead I opted for a Davosa watch from Swiss. Same design as the Rolex (you can argue it’s stolen, I believe the watch world calls it a homage) but 1/10th of the price. Also had great experience with their customer service which adds to the experience of owning the watch.

At least it scratched the submariner itch for now for a fraction of the price (and a fraction of the future cost of Rolex maintenance).

Thanks for the read Simon!

Edwin Rothengatter

Sometimes I do wonder this yes. Before I made the purchase I had been eying some seiko’s and tissot’s (both have a good quality to price ratio for under 1000 euro’s and great heritage) but the design of the submariner kept on itching. I almost bought a Squale as well, they have a great history in dive watches. But none of the designs grabbed me like the submariner design.

I’m a 1 watch type of person so if I ever upgrade it’s probably a Tudor anyway. (Hopefully they are thinner by then). The reasoning for this is because I dislike Rolex as a company and for what it has become in the last few years (I love the history though). Their history screams tool watch for the professional (it still is a tool watch in 2023 ofcourse) but their pricing and recent public image screams: look at me and my watch. I’m not saying this is wrong but it isn’t for me.

Anyway, enough of me rambling.

Have a great evening!

Edwin Rothengatter

Hi Simon,

I would like to add I dislike current Rolex, not past Rolex. If that makes sense.

As far as the design. I don’t know why it captivates me so much, it just fits and resonates with me for some reason. Hard to find the exact reasoning why haha.

Have a great Sunday!

Rodrigue Ayotte

This is a fascinating vaguely defined agglomeration of overlapping gray areas. Can we call Ralph Lauren designs original given his business model of repackaging Anglo-American elite dress codes for the masses? What about chukkas – is everyone who makes chukkas copying Clarks, or were Clarks copying the nameless Egyptian cobblers who were copying the nameless Boer cobbler who developed the veldskoen? What about Brooks Brothers’ appropriation and popularization of the polo shirt?
It all makes me wish I’d studied IP law.


Hey Simon, curious what you think about how this applies to watches, and also what you mean when you refer to copy watches. Do you mean you wore style that was clearly borrowed from another, such as the newer Timex Q GMT vs the original Rolex GMT, or do you mean you literally wore a knockoff, as in the stuff you buy off a guy on the street? I’ve never been a watch guy, but started wearing them to avoid taking my phone out to check the time in front of my toddler. I’m sure you have seen the effect the phone can have on a toddler! Anyways, I’ve been buying a few cool looking smaller and vintage ones, all cheap, off eBay, that I won’t feel bad about smashing up. Stuff like Seiko tanks (Cartier rip off), or some of their 1970s divers (Omega Seamaster rip off), or the aforementioned GMTs. Does this constitute this sort of negative copying?


The element of this discussion I find particularly tricky is when an item has been around for so long and has seen so many copies from so many brands that unless you’re a really informed consumer, how would you know? Some products are ubiquitous. eg. how many companies that aren’t Baracuta make a harrington? how many duffle coats from companies that aren’t Gloverall? Another struggle, what’s more what if the copy is better? eg. I can think of a few companies I’d buy a boat show from that aren’t Sperry. The thought is an interesting one to explore. I agree with you, Simon. The Voice of the product is where it becomes blatant and where I’d want to stay clear.

Barry Goldwater

Judging by the number of comments and considering the article has not been up for more than half a day you have opened up a can of worms with this excellent article. A topic as intriguing and nuanced as this might be better suited for a podcast.
Ralph Lauren is a great example of starting off doing it the right way with homage to mid century Americana and ending up doing it the wrong way with lazy copy paste efforts. Where the line is drawn is up for interpretation.
Credit should be given to brands who do it right. Bryceland’s Co has made fantastic pieces that go beyond homage and come out arguably better than the originals. Their Foul Weather Smock is a great example of taking a piece and “updating” it not only with better fabrics but also stylistic adjustments that express their voice in a way that transcends the original USN smocks.

Mohammad Reza

I agree with you for the most part Simon, but I think the example of Common Projects is possibly not the best in this case. White sneakers were popularised well before Common Projects came to the market. Although I appreciate they elevated them to a more luxury status their design wasn’t inherently original.


Interesting that you argue against copying Loro Piana Openwalks, and call them “original,” where I see them as a copy of Cole Haan frankenshoes. A “minimal” loafer with a white sole is not new, Loro Piana’s primary innovation is marketing this garbage as a luxury product. They could afford to use stitched construction or to design a better-looking shoe, but they chose to design cheap, bland, ugly nonsense and market it as though it’s a luxury product.
The whole bland luxury / “quiet luxury” / “stealth wealth” trend seems to be houses like Loro Piana, Brunello Cucinelli, and Hermes playing on what brands like Stoffa, The Row, Umit Benan and others were doing better, but charging more for it and pretending it’s high fashion. It’s a marketing trick. They brag about being better than Gucci, but use Gucci’s low-rent logo nonsense as a straw man for their real selling point, *designer fashion*. Stoffa and The Row play with silhouette and asymmetry and things like that, and yes, their clothing is largely luxurious solids, but the selling point was never “wow, we use solids instead of patterns, give us $4000 for a tee shirt!” It was subtle, but present, design.


On a related note: what do you think about The Row, Simon? Do they really innovate with their designs and is the price point just positioning or is there something to it?


Isn’t the main issue here why someone would buy the replica/copy? If we take two of the examples in the article; the well made denim from Japan and the Open walk from LP, I feel that no one is buying a pair of Japanese jeans to achieve the status or feel of a pair of Levi’s (given they were probably the original). With the LP Open Walk (which was introduced in 2005) it is a different matter. The design was not a wildly appreciated initially but rather something for a small category of customers. The exposure of the “steal wealth” mentality and social media made the design one of the most successful ones in recent years and when shoe companies and customers first consider something because of this, my only conclusion is that they want to ride the hype train. Whether or not you find the original price worthy or not (I certainly do not) the entire reason for making the copy is to piggy back on another brands image.

With the smaller start ups it’s even worse since, like you mention, the consequences might be ultimate.

I love brands who try to improve, innovate and add something to the conversation. I’m also aware it’s not simple discussion but I still believe that most customers, if they really think about it, are quite aware on whether they buy a replica for the pure design/quality or the added value built by a completely different brand.


Copying in one form or another will always exist as long as there is no perfect equity in the human condition, which will most likely to persist. We always tend to imitate those in positions of wealth, power and or intellect. From an intellectual property point of view, it might and certainly would damage a proprietor’s bottom line to some extent, but in a way it also inadvertently propagates the original idea’s circulation into the mainstream.

Ralph Lauren was criticised in the early days if not even to this day, as an imitation of the cross Atlantic ruling class, of their prep schools, country houses and board rooms, yet without him, one might argue that many of those wardrobes and tastes might have well elapsed into obscurity, and to the ultimate crowning of his achievement, this kid from the Bronx was laureled as the Knight Commander by no other than the Prince or King Charles himself.

If one could afford to acquire the original, wether it is a pair of shoes from a renowned shoemaker, a tourbillon or a convertible, then certainly one should patron and reward their originality, service and efforts. But for many less fortunate souls out there, getting a functional, close but no cigar replica is an aspiration in and of itself, and who knows may be someday once they have made it, they would come to Permanent Style and learn more about those original artisans themselves.


Those four Grayson Perry lectures are awesome, thanks for bringing them up.

Aaron L

Good timing on this. I just saw a coat very similar to your herringbone tweed with fabric from the same mill in a custom run that looks like it has an enlarged herringbone (haven’t got out the ruler yet). It’s not a note for note copy, but is quite similar. I’d been grappling with whether I should buy it or wait for yours to come back into stock. I can’t say it was a copy, but the colour choices (also in brown and navy versions of the fabric gave me pause). No need to comment.


For me, it really depends on how original or proprietary a product is to a company.

For example, buying knock off LP open walks would definitely be off the table (if I were even interested in the original) because this is a proprietary design by LP. A number of readers have commented that the design isn’t complicated and any company could have come up with it. But they didn’t and LP had both the creativity to design the product and the financial and brand wherewithal to market and distribute it. So buying a copy is a definite no no for me.

A little easier is if a product is not proprietary to a company but is strongly associated with them. For example, Tods didn’t invent driving loafers but they probably have done more to popularise them than any other brand. There I would have less qualms about buying a driving loafer made by another company because it isn’t original to Tods.

What I find more difficult is what to do in the case of designs that are stronger associated with smaller companies that don’t have as much money as big brands. For example, a few years had my shoemaker make me a bespoke pair of loafers essentially copying the design of the EG full strap loafers (sorry I don’t remember the model name). I did this because, regardless of how much I like EG as a company and want to support them, their loafer lasts just don’t work for me. I suppose I justified the decision to myself on the basis that I wouldn’t have bought them for EG for that reason. But maybe I just talked myself into the choice that way and I did something that I shouldn’t have.


I wouldn’t buy a copy of anything because I’d feel like a cheap wannabe while wearing it, and the idea of wearing a copy while running into someone who’s wearing the original makes me cringe. But with cheap copies I can at least understand why they exist at all; what I don’t get are copies that are actually more expensive than the original, like Drake’s wax cotton jackets, for example.

Ronnie Pickering

Not being in the industry I suspect I’m a little less sympathetic to the supplier side. Fashion is competitive (and presumably start-ups know that) and life for start-ups is hard – there’s no point sugar coating this. Copying (and improving or providing better value for money) is a core part of the competitive dynamic for almost all start-ups in almost all industries. It benefits the consumer and it’s economically efficient. That competitive edge stops overcharging. I’m afraid I’m in the “let the market rip” camp. Now I generally think copies are inferior (and I would never knowingly buy a fake) and aspire to buy quality. But if someone can do it cheaper and better (or the same) I’m not sentimental about choosing that. Copying isn’t stealing (copyright infringement is). In the same way I won’t buy something from the UK simply because it’s made in the UK.


Hi Simon,

Great article. After working at clothing brand for the past year, I really appreciate the points you made in this article regarding the lack of creativity and perspective many brands today lack. I began my journey into clothing because of my love for clothing and the stories that can be told through them which may have been a bit over romanticized.

As I’ve gotten deeper and deeper into the weed of things during my time here, I find myself turned off from purchasing from brands (I will not name names) that are purchasing from factory catalogs and then just have a label slapped on it and sold at a higher price. It’s not so much the fact that items are made in factories, but the fact that there is very little consideration going into the product themselves.

I have since turned my focus to working with artisans/tailors/craftsmen which I have really enjoyed. I wouldn’t call any of the things I’ve commissioned revolutionary, but they have sense of life to them. From the idea, the conversation, and the fittings, you really feel like you’re making something that is personal and reflects who you are as an individual. Every piece is intentionally designed with influences from both the customer, tailor, and their ideas (I understand not everyone can or would want to purchase bespoke). It feels like most brands are now more merchant focused than design focused and it’s quite a sad thing to see.

When I look at the brands today that can still invoke this type of feeling/connection, I can only name a handful such as Rubato, Husbands, Lutays, and Adret. All of which have a strong identity and narrative that are told through individual pieces that are thoughtfully designed and made. However, as you mentioned, design and RD and expensive and is often reflected in price. Not to mentioned the amount of money it requires to meet factory minimums.

Given the pricing and accessibility of “custom” clothing and MTO programs that let you have whatever you want (not always a good thing) with the added benefits of fit at a similar price, do you believe that it such a design driven business can exist long term and provides a value proposition (price, style, design, etc.,) that is unique?

In your opinion, is it still a viable option for an individual who is interested in starting their own design driven brand to focus on scaling through wholesale (e.g., Wythe New York, Coherence, RRL) given the conditions of modern day retail?


Hi Simon, I’m a new poster here, but been following this site for some time now. I think the way you have framed this, as more a question of responsibility and less about it is legal or not lega is sensible. To know about the history of companies and products, how it is made and how to identify quality is what led me to PS in the first place, so I could make better and more informed purchases.
But for someone new in the field, to know the boundaries between when something is just an interpretation of an established style and when someone is copying someone else is difficult. To focus on quality may be one guiding principle, but is it any better if a big company copies a newcomer’s product and throw their vast resources on it to make a similar but quality wise better product?


It’s notable that a blog about permanent style is bemoaning the lack of innovation. One has to wonder, at the end of the day, are consumer interests really undermined by the lack of research and development—in fashion? What cruel and desolate world, one in which we only have the current 5000 choices of footwear styles?

I think people will continue to copy. Brands will continue to pump out “innovations” in order to profit what they can. And life will go on.


I don’t think what is advocated here is better for consumers at all. Yours is a common position taken by certain manufacturers disguised as consumer advocacy.


Thanks for the post. I think there’s lots to say about Brooks Brothers, relevant to this. In many cases they either created or brought to an American audience a number of garments that have been copied umpteenth times. The fun shirt, the No 1 sack suit, ocbds come to mind as examples. Even Richard Press says his Bar Mitzvah suit was bought at Brooks Brothers and taken back to the shop to have the tags swapped:

I think there are two interesting aspects to this. One is that copying can happen both from an expensive brand to a cheaper one, but also the reverse. Second, some garments may be so successful that they become considered basics and fall into ubiquity. On this last point I can appreciate there’s a depth of intellectual property laws here that I know little about.

Lachie M

When I was first becoming more interested in fashion I bought a Harrington jacket from Ralph Lauren. It is great, and I wear it a lot, but a part of me wishes I’d invested a little more and bought a Baracuta G9 which this jacket is essentially copying. I’ve since bought a different Harrington style from an Australian company, that while at a first glance is quite similar, it actually has a lot of unique features that differentiate it from the original, such as being unlined, waxed cotton and a more spread collar. Differentiating between inspired by and copying is such a grey area, but when you wear the clothes you feel it and you know it.


How about copies that are more expensive than the original? some of your sneakers are clear rip offs of Vans and Converse.

Matt L

If a design is popular enough, does it not eventually become one of the basics you mention? Presumably there was a first-ever pair of black calf cap-toe oxfords. I also imagine that the second business to offer them was simply copying the first. I’m not trying to say that copying is always an ok thing to do. I do think that it’s an extremely complex and arguably completely subjective issue. I don’t think forbidding copying completely is the right tool for the job.

Andy Dutton

Thank you for a really heart felt article, In a world where AI will be scanning millions of instagram accounts and using the images to generate clothing designs that are ‘hot’ from the images. Clothes that can be made and advertised in weeks or even days, it’s hard. By breaking down the elements of style and recombining them the AI may even be what we call creative.


This makes me think of the horse bit loafer. I own a pair of Carmina horsebit loafer and find them superior in quality to Gucci. Would I have bought them if Gucci had not made them popular, probably not. I think the same is evident here.


“Good artists copy, great artists steal” I can’t remember who said that but to fully embrace that statement I’ll claim I said it.
I’ve always seen it as this – at the beginning you start taking copies of lots of other designs or outfits which you like and admire. Then over a gradual time you combine all the inspirations into something more original and truer to you, giving your designs or outfits more of a voice, to paraphrase GP above.
On a similar topic I own a Rolex submariner homage watch. I looked into purchasing an authentic one but I can’t afford the second hand ones, and the first hand ones involve all manner of schmoozing with authorised dealers which I don’t have the inclination or time for and would still have to purchase it on finance. Upon discovering the German homage brand I saw it had favourable reviews, seemed well made, came in a smaller size more suitable to my wrist and was a fraction of the price. It seemed a no-brainer and more “established” brands are doing the same thing anyway in terms of design.
I suspect decent homage watches either create a strong negative reaction in some or begrudging respect in others given the dedication of watch fanatics but I have been very happy with mine. Plus with an item of that value on my person (Rolex) I’d have concerns wearing it out, which defeats the point of having it.
This isn’t a post to justify for/against, just my experience with watches.


I’m reminded of a question raised to Jony Ive, what he thought of the comparison to his products and their design to that of Xiaomi, a tech company out of China.
You can see his full response here, but he basically says it’s not flattering and he considers it theft.


As an architecture student I recently had a similar conversation with friends at the university. Consensus was that heavy imitation is allowed if you improve upon the original, imbue it with new meaning, or otherwise add something. I think you’re spot on with the comment about the distinctive ”voice” of Rubato, Stoffa, etc.

When true quality is present nobody minds if the object imitates something else. The imitation only becomes painful when it is obviously inferior to source of inspiration, since it will always evoke a longing for something better that could have been, but alas, isn’t.


Great article Simon as it makes for a lively debate. I’m of the opinion that there is very little new developments in fashion just considered tweaks of vintage items. When I first saw the Loro Piana Open Walk it reminded me of Bally shoes of the 90’s, I’ve attached an image for reference. To me there are a lot similarities between the two, what do you think? I think Common Projects look like vintage Adidas Rod Laver and the chunky Balenciaga like ASICS on steroids. The examples you mentioned are all interesting design developments but I don’t see them as radically new product developments.

I would concede that sportswear companies spend a fortune on developing the latest trainer or item of clothing to try and improve performance but these items cannot be easily copied and sold at a reduced price.


I’m surprised you include what sounds like a white label (manufacturer putting your label into their generic product) as a form of copy and in the same breath a straight out fakes. Assuming the manufacturer is the original designer or has the designers permission I dont see how it’s comparable?

I think it’s an interesting and complex subject. I know creative types that have alleged copying by both big brands and startups. Some undercut but others sold the items at a higher price (some unchanged or others upgrading materials (eg original in silver but copy platinum)). In any case they have my sympathies.

Its difficult though, I dont think I’ve ever seen the LP shoes before and so wouldnt know someone else’s was a copy. There are a large number of womens bags with closures like the Kelly or Berkine but I’ve no idea if Hermes is truly the original here or just the one that made them famous. When I was growing up Davidoffs Cool Water was the fragrance to wear and the local market sold a knock off… only 25 years later did I even hear of Irish Green Tweed and the allegations that Cool Water was a knock off of it.

How much of a change is required for it to be inspired by rather than a copy? My wife interned with two print fabric design companies; with one of them the Creative Director would often turn up with some random dress or blouse bought from some high street shop and tell the interns she wanted 10 designs from each of them “inspired” by the print. Having seen some of those there were those that were very close and others that I struggled to see the inspirational connection. But then in many cases the sample piece was hardly original itself.

I wont go out and buy a known fake, I wont commission a direct copy (ie give them an item to copy) but I am not going to spend weeks researching the origins of an item to see how original it is. When I commission a shirt it will be in a similar style to every shirt from every other maker. For most items in the permanent style sphere, exc jewellery, I dont really see much of an original artistic voice and will switch between price points without thinking if C&J are copying EG or not. If Crocketts have the brogue boots in the colourway I want ETW whereas EG is MTO only then they’ll win my business.

Dr Peter

Great article, Simon. There’s just one thing I would like to add, something that may have been implicit in your piece, but perhaps not openly stated unless I missed it. That is the factor of quality — to be precise, craftsmanship. This applies both to the materials used and the build of the product. Very often, the knockoff product will be of lesser quality and craftsmanship. I understand this dimension can vary quite a bit, from almost as good as the original to fairly bad. But quality is yet another reason to stay away from knockoffs. Of course, if you don’t mind sacrificing some amount of quality to get a lower price, then you can buy the copy.

David G

Casting my mind back to your excellent piece from two years ago, “What would I buy from Massimo Dutti”, I have to say I think you may have shifted your view on this somewhat.

You recommended the trainers: “With sneakers, the quality of most of the market is so poor, that actually Massimo Dutti looks good. The actual trainers have a cleaner make than Nike, and the clean models that are similar to Common Projects are decent too. There’s even a range that looks a lot like Loro Piana.” The last bit linked to the Dutti version of Open Walks, I remember because I tried to buy a pair but they had sold out!

Matt H

Ah, the Open Walk. Spoiling menswear ensembles on Instagram for… how long now? They seemed to emerge fairly recently, and quickly they were everywhere. It’s baffling to me as I think they look tacky. Anyone who has spent time poking around shoes on Yoox over the past two decades will have found them immediately familiar. Plenty of small and not-so-small brands have produced very similar models over the years.

I find the idea that LP have any claim of innovation when it comes to the design to be quite laughable. I’m sure the quality is high, for what they are, but that isn’t innovation. If I liked the style I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a ‘copy’.

It’s certainly unfortunate if a small start-up fails or is set back by the existence of an imitator, but I think the lines are often far too murky to make firm pronouncements about what is and isn’t ethical.


I’m for supporting true artisan/design/quality. If we were in the 60/70’s I’d understand your point. Now, everything seems to be own by LVMH -which charges a really high premium for it- and move designers around as musical chairs, so I do not see it anymore.


I think a problem with this idea of giving this much value to the original design, is that most people (perhaps subconsciously) actually think of copies as “any iteration of a design from a brand different from the latest, largest brand to popularize the design”, i.e. something manufactured and sold to “ride the hype” created by some kind of clothing from some brand. But in many/most cases, that particular brand being copied isn’t even the original designer of that design, only the last brand to successfully market it in recent times, and with which the design is associated in the mind of most people that didn’t even know the pre-existing iteration.
It feels intuitive that riding the hype isn’t interesting while reintroducing designs no longer popular and easily accessible (though potentially still available somewhere!) is, but the problem is that this moves the perceived value from the design itself, to the (potentially, re-) popularization of a design. And indeed, many iconic items of clothing weren’t even original designs from the brand everybody associates with them.
In present times, I think Sagans are a great example of a non-original design that now everybody on PS associates with B&L to the point of calling other iterations copies.

William Kazak

I have a pair of canvas white color Sperry, I will call them tennis shoes, boat shoes. They remind me of most all the other tennis shoes I have ever seen. The toe area is canvas, it is flat, unlike a basketball shoe. Clearly, not an original concept to me but I have not seen Sperry do this before. Is it an original design? I don’t know. How do we do our research?


I always liked the look of some Gaziano and Girling models but wasn’t comfortable with the price point so bought from Crockett and Jones instead. Similarly really liked Edward Green’s Oundle model, but with it no longer part of their main catalogue would have to commission. Instead I bought the C&J handgrade Winston model, which is similar. The Winston looks sleek, veering towards pointy, which makes it trickier in terms of versatilty. G&G also have that aesthetic on some models and I feel would’ve gotten less wear, partly due to the more casual world we now inhabit. So buying less expensive, yet still original designs, saved me from a sub optimal decision.


Having been brought up in south of france from parents originating from North Africa ( Algeria)
Clothes were always of interest to me.
And my mother always told me buy little but good quality.
Having been at the for front of boutique era ( designer wear) from the seventies and having had a retail boutique myself..
I am now retired but still love my clothes, still go by that advice..
So I think it’s a matter of upbringing and cultural background, regardless of wealth…

Mark Gross

Isn’t the fashion industry built on copying? And what, exactly, constitutes a copy in this context? First, it seems to me that this is basically the business model of several companies, Zara being the most notable. But also, if it include the Loro Piana logo, or the Ralph Lauren Polo pony, that is clearly a counterfeit and theft on intellectual property. But if I make a polo shirt similar in weight, feel and quality of material and but with another logo, or none at all, why is that a problem? The shape and silhouette of the Alden tassel loafer is replicated by everyone from, well, Ralph Lauren, on the high end to countless cheaper version. I own an actual Alden pair — because I believe their quality and after sales support justify that price. Isn’t the real issue here that Loro Piana’s version is no better quality than the higher quality versions selling for 20-40% of the price? I think Loro Piana produces some great stuff. But by selling it at a mark up considerably higher than other high quality versions — i.e., trading solely on perception — aren’t they making their own bed?


On the other hand i feel like the price on some of those brands is really stupid. RL and LP pricing doesn’t make any sense to me. By any means I’m not anti expensive clothing but what are they charging you for? I guess someone is buying or they wouldn’t do it but…


Yeah i’m no talking about crockett and jones, rubato or any bespoke tailor. But polo ralph lauren in particular and LP charging 800 for that sneaker seems crazy to me. The margin on those cases must be much higher than 25%.


Interesting, I’m a product designer and know how expensive things can get to make. It gives you a lot to think about if true. Would love to hear LP perspective on this or just the straight accounting of the product 😂.


Re: pricing and margins. I think it is often missed that within a brand, most likely some products have really high margins, while others do not. In that sense, some products finance the development of others, and the lower-margin products are necessary for the legitimacy of the brand.

As an example, the PRL polos and baseball hats probably have a steep margin, while a RRL leather jacket, or Purple label jacket with custom cloth, made for one season only, might be produced at a loss when factoring in R&D and how few units are made. That’s how some brands simultaneously can be very good value and feel unnecessarily expensive.


Interesting article and comments, but I find it difficult to relate to either. As a lower middle class salaried professional, I have never been able to afford designer clothing, and would probably be ignored or snubbed in such stores in my area (Remember the Beverly Hills dress shop scene in Pretty Woman). My dress code at work is business casual. A nice evening out is resort casual or semi dressy. My preference is a classic, tailored style; no fads or in-the-moment experiments. I need clothes that are well made, properly sized, durable and timeless. A designer label is of little or no importance to me.


Simon, I’m open to your position but I remain unconvinced for a couple reasons…

1) I think there’s an important distinction between a fake knockoff and a lower cost competitor. The former attempts to pass off the knockoff as the original, whereas the latter draws direct inspiration from the original but offers it a more competitive price. So a fake Hermes is clearly bad. But I’m okay if Meermin offered a cheaper version of the Open Walk.

2) You’re assuming the original is offering good faith value. Gucci horse bit loafers for example cost nearly $800 but are hardly worth the amount on objective quality standards. In that instance, what’s wrong with going with cheaper alternatives from Carmina, Allen Edmond, etc…?

3) I’m not sure the knockoffs steal sales from the original. If someone is buying a more economical alternative at a fraction of the price, I’m not sure they’d buy the original at the much higher cost.

Ultimately, I think this is a topic that’s too big too tackle in the 700 words you attempted here. Surely it’ll warrant a deeper discussion to unpack all the moral ambiguities you allude to.


It’s an interesting discussion. Couple of points:

1. A lot of designs are identical, or nearly so, even the V-neck sweater only varies in minor details.
2. We think of copying as a situation of a less innovative company leeching off a more innovative one but in areas like sneakers and streetwear the opposite dynamic applies. How many designer brands copy the Adidas Stan Smith or the AirMax? How many high-end designers churned out sweatshirts once streetwear become the in thing?


I think a key point here is when a derivative product is no longer considered a copy and becomes a generic product.
Most classic items in today’s menswear originated in the late 1800’s to mid 1900’s and are not perceived as copies nowadays.
Every brand has got their own versions of blue jeans, chinos, polo shirts, loafers or trench coats.
So if you strictly adhere to not buying copies, you shouldn’t buy other jeans than Levi 501’s, other polo shirts than Lacoste, other chukkas than Clarks desert boots, other loafers than Bass Weejuns and other trench coats than Burberry’s. Which is, of course, utterly ridiculous.

David Spelman

It’s been interesting to read the comments from people who’ve worked in fashion about how mood boards turn into new products almost accidentally. What I’m getting is that it’s not always malicious (the banality of evil, etc.).
But there’s an important part of this conversation that’s changed in the last 3 years. TikTok has accelerated the trend cycle for clothing geometrically. I discussed this in another comment on the post about logo hats.
Loro Piana is now a household name thanks to a combination of Succession and TikTok in a way it has never been in its history. Searches for it have exploded in the last few years after decades of it being relatively unknown. See attached graph.
One result of this trend cycle is an increasingly open and shameless interest in “dupes” (the term has exploded with Gen Z, see the other Google Trends graph).
Simon, commenters, and Thomas Aquinas all suggest that intentionality matters to some extent when determining the morality of an action. The intentionality of dupes is more pronounced than ever.
There’s a famous scene in The Devil Wears Prada where Anne Hathaway’s naive intern character is schooled by a fictionalized Anna Wintour that the cerulean blue of her knit is actually the result of a long chain of dilution and diffusion that unfolded over several seasons. Inspiration that began at a runway show ended up in the intern’s local bargain bin, completely unbeknownst to her.
Today, this process plays out in months, weeks, or, in the case of Shein, even days or NEGATIVE TIME (colluding with Kim Kardashian to mass-produce a copy of a designer outfit before she wears it publicly).
And it also plays out in full view. Everyone is in on the system in a way they’ve never been before.
It’s unlikely that Kant or Aquinas had biker shorts or Summer Walks in mind when they spoke of good will, but with regard to inspiration or dupes, there seems to be less of it than ever.

Screenshot 2023-09-28 at 9.39.30 AM.png

It was touched upon in the article, but I feel there is another fine line in tailoring. If the “style” comparison for suiting, say, is bespoke commissions, how do we (or should we) find balance? Understandably, most people can not afford even one bespoke suit, let alone a closet full. So those of us with deep closets walk a tight rope. We have to support those who are crafting beautiful pieces, as well as stylish ones, but we can not constantly drain the coffer for a new garment. So while I have a nice selection from very reputable companies, and I continue to save for special bespoke commissions, I have also filled gaps with internet based “custom” pieces.
The most recent item that comes to mind is a Harris Tweed three-piece suit. I bought this online from one of the many Hong Kong custom tailors, it was not very expensive (though I did spring for a few optional upgrades). I would love to have this made by say Huntsman, but I don’t think it would be as valuable in my wardrobe (despite being a more valuable piece). What I mean by that is, I can wear this new suit a few times a year, sometimes to a country dinner, sometimes shooting. If I get a hole in it outside, I’m not about to cry. I would feel guilty, however, spending so much money on a perfectly crafted piece from a top house for such little call of occasion.
There are many ethical questions tied to this cheaper custom tailoring model, and very few are clear. Good companies (take Turnbull and Asser) provide good working conditions, they spend money to not cut corners, and they usually have excellent customer service. Bad companies may not have any of those priorities. Furthermore, I used Turnbull and Asser because of how they conducted themselves over many tragic times. Most recently, when COVID broke out, they started making scrubs and masks with whatever they could to help fill the need, as well as, keep their people employed. I doubt “custom tailor X” did that. On the reverse side however, the people making these custom garments need jobs too. Harris Tweed would not survive if it relied solely on fashion houses and bespoke tailors. The wool shepherds in Scotland are already struggling due to low wool demand, take away the majority of the market and the industry dies. (I say majority because take a walk down The Mile in Edinburgh, you could sink a ship with all of the tweed garments made in China).
I don’t know if the lines for commissioned pieces are more or less clear. I feel very strongly that true bespoke houses must be supported, but should that be exclusively? Is there a place in the world for the rest of custom tailoring?


I understand what argument you are trying to make with the article, but it unfortunately comes off a tad naive as someone who is a bit too deep in the consumerist side of the fashion world; not being able to see the forest through the trees. let me explain 🙂
the fist problem is the brands you chose as a copy: for common projects, if you go far down/far back enough of the white shoe history world, it was really erik schedin shoes that started off the fad for a simple clean white shoe. common projects took it to a more “exclusive” (ie expensive) level although the quality is not exactly much higher. So in essence common projects are just a copy of an original as well.
Similar in that sense is balenciaga, if you know the history of demna and vetements, the not so secret joke and controversial nature of him and what he brought his brand (then vetements) and later balenciaga was a blatant copy of youth rave and suburban culture for astonishing prices.
Similarly I would argue the same logic with most high level brands, if you dig into the history of the designers and their own personal interests (kim jones is a great example), most of what they do is take from the streets of regular, work, and club life, and make it with more premium (also debatable) fabrics and sell them again at astonishing prices.
The circle of selling very high priced copies of regular life inspired clothing has been a staple of the high end fashion world, and will always continue to be so.
There are of course brands that sell the original and it would be hard to knock that, like a rolex in any case is a rolex and a pioneer of watch history and market.
To me though, Loro Piana was a pioneer in the world of refining fabrics to get absolute finest threads, not in the style itself. Owning more than enough Loro Piana of my own, i love to wear it because it is extemelly soft (although i cringe inside how oldman it makes me look), but I dont believe its leaps and bound above anything that is even half or and eight of the price; it still is a luxury brand that is simply setting itself apart on the basis of price for those with more money than sense trying to convince themselves of the life changing feel of these marginal gains. The shape of the summer walkers have existed for quite some time, and im not sure so much R&D went into slapping a rubber sole on a classic shoe silhouette.
To boil it down, and think everyone should take a small step back in the fashion world and see that most brands, especially luxury brands, market themselves and create this football club ultras like belief where the people really defend it, but fail to realize that they themselves are also being fooled by the marketing (not trying to be cynical, more matter of fact) as the brands themselves are pushing either marginal gains for astonishing prices or playing off high end copies of what they argue is a more refined version of what everyone else is already wearing.
Is it the brand and ethos that makes you feel good when you wear it, or is it really because its the original version? neither one is more correct, but no one should lose sight of who or what marketing department is swaying and blurring the lines of this differentiation


As a designer myself it’s hard to fully agree with your points in this article.
On one end, I am in full support of original work and think dupes should be avoided at all costs. But on the other end, as you mentioned, much, if not all, design is an iteration of what once existed prior.

As many readers have mentioned, the LP Walker is just an iteration of the Clark Wallaby, and almost an exact copy in terms of design. The Common Projects shoe is an iteration of the original Chuck Taylor low top. When you talk about a design having its own voice, well, that’s branding and is related but ultimately separate from design.

I work in an industry where our IP isn’t even protected (fine perfumes) and dupes run rampant. But, we indie perfumers accept this horrible twist of fate and work towards developing a strong enough brand to create loyal customers.

Would I ever buy a fake Rolex? Never. Would I have a tailor copy a bespoke garment? Not a chance. But to excuse the brands you adore seems rather elitist.


Well I’d argue there’s another point on top of this one to make. Quality.
Recently, my wife needed a pair of new shoes. She previously had both a pair of Clark’s, and a pair of “More expansive brand” (to respect anonymity).
She was thinking to get “More expansive brand” again for the style and to some extent, the brand, which as a sales person can be useful to put on display, but she was quite unhappy with the previous pair of “More expansive brand”, as the sole had worn out way too soon, much faster in fact than the cheaper Clark’s, and faster than even cheaper brands out there, despite costing several times as much as the cheaper brand.
If the quality of the “original” product is so bad, should you really support it and not the much cheaper, higher quality alternative?