Abstract: The Fashionable Business of Design Piracy in the Apparel Industry: The Historical Perspective

Jean L. Parsons and Sara B. Marcketti


The creative practices of the fashion ready-to-wear industry have almost always relied on a system of borrowing, copying, and/or piracy to create theoretically new designs. The process was intended to satisfy consumers with a presumed desire for something simultaneously new and yet within the fashionable mode. This "fashionable" creative formula for apparel design in the United States arose in part because the industry grew at such a rapid pace in the last decade of the nineteenth century and first decade of the twentieth that little initial attention was paid to training designers to fill a sudden need to offer variety to the newly style-conscious customer. In the current fashion industry, emphasis is placed on the creative personalities of well-known designers, but many continue to design using themes of homage or historic inspiration. And, design piracy, or in the contemporary vernacular "knocking-off," is rampant at all price points. This research relies on trade journals such as <i>Womens Wear Daily</i>, the popular and fashion press, legal and government documents, as well as on a case study of the Fashion Originators Guild of America (FOGA) to explicate some of these many thorny issues that began a century ago, but still shape this widespread business practice.