Sounds pretty serious right? Some might think this is unnecessary, minor, strange to bring up. I will explain.
I pride myself on supporting independent designers, crafts people, design heritage and businesses with good values. Within my work I choose to avoid products that are imitations of classic designs, copies of independent designers work made by large companies. Such products are likely to be sold at a low price point with no royalties or recognition of the original designer maker.
My platform will never have a ‘get the look for less‘ page. I’m not interested in that. All I want to do is focus on good quality, original design, design heritage, craftsmanship and creativity.
There’s an argument to be said that many said that some products could simply be ‘inspired’ by the original. In many cases this is true. However to become inspired by a design and creating something with recognition of the original design is perfectly acceptable. This is design development and through this process it’s possible to develop a new way of manufacturing, new materials, colours which leads onto trends, etc. And having worked in the design industry for quite some time you do get an eye for what is a product inspired by an original and what is clearly a replica.
Why does it matter?
This is such a big subject where I’m only scratching the surface. Firstly no designer benefits financially or in their career from replicas of fakes. In most cases the original designer won’t have the cash to fight big companies in court. If it is a large high street brand producing those replicas they will be priced drastically lower than the original, undercutting the original design and taking away potential customers. With fewer customers, the original artist or designers’ career could be at risk.
Secondly when mass producing a replica, there could be critical details and quality not used in the manufacturing process. Being sold at a lower price point will also mean cheaper materials, a lesser quality (and certainly not made to last) and potentially more harmful to the environment. The final product could be unsafe ,faulty, have a short product life due to cheap materials and even damaging to the environment.
I’m not going to start going through all of these companies and calling out the fakes. Unfortunately that would be a full time job.
I could go on and talk about this complex and frustrating subject for hours but back to the apology. I think it is important, especially in these strange times of being misled with media, news and untrustworthy marketing that we all get a bit more honest and real. And again this apology may sound insignificant, however I do believe this can open up to a greater discussion.
What did I do?
There was a Christmas shoot I did in my home two years ago. A simple, natural table setting. I collected all of the pieces from Danish and Finnish design brands. I needed some napkins to soften the styling so I ran to a well known high street store that sells both fashion and homeware and grabbed some nice and cheap napkins for the shoot. At no point did I think about the design of said napkins. My mind was on the centrepiece, plates, glassware and candle holders. They were all from companies that celebrated design heritage, quality, sustainability etc. The napkins…… I had no idea. Just napkins, right? Who cares?
WELL. It’s my bloody job to care! They may only be napkins but when styling a table, I should have known where each design and EVERY item came from and who designed it. If it’s in the shot then it’s my job to know.
I later found out that the design of the napkins looked very much like those made and designed by an independent textile designer and weaver north of Copenhagen. After some research I realised that I indeed used replicas of those very same superior quality woven textiles.
The realisation of this fact made me feel sick and ashamed. I fucked up. All of my previous protests against fakes, supporting designers became irrelevant because I ignorantly dismissed the textile industry.
Why say anything?
The word authenticity gets banded around a lot. In this particular case I wanted to own up to my mistakes and maybe get people thinking about what they are including in their photoshoots or images online. What I ended up doing was essentially promoting a company that is known and criticised widely for making replica designs. When this is the opposite of what I ever want to achieve.
As a professional that cares so much about the design industry, it’s my duty to address these issues.
I also think this can open up to a larger discussion and careful consideration when it comes to product selection. If we choose to publish any images of products online and on social media then surely we should be 100% confident in the values of the company that manufactures them. This includes the process, materials, techniques etc. Right?! Because why else would we, in good conscience, agree to promote them? We shouldn’t cheat to get the job done. Consideration and pride in our work is essential.
So there we have it, I got it wrong. I’ve learnt my lesson. And that’s a hard pill to swallow. I understand that this post will open me up to a lot of criticism and maybe trolling through previous posts and pictures. The point is I’m moving forward with adding this lesson to my code of conduct rule book.
*Check the provenance of each item featured in your work. Including all images, text and links. Never include a replica design. If the design looks like a replica but you are unsure then do the research before you choose to proceed with the work.
If anything, this realisation of a simple slip up has reinforced my passion for design and lit a fire in my belly for further industry research. Sometimes we need to own up to these mistakes to move forward. And again sorry textiles industry, I’ll do better.
Dear Hannah, thanks for your honest and thoughtful post. Everyone slips up, so don’t worry about it now. P.S. I know which Danish weaver you mean and appreciate the care and high standards that go into her textile designs.
Well done for being honest. But it happened and as you say You learned from it.
I love your sincerity and vulnerability .
Your post is well written and your stance on the issue what it should be. We must talk about everything, no issues under the rug.
Thank you for your transparency! One thing I’ll say though is the reality is most of us can’t afford to only buy high quality handmade items. If we’re lucky, we can mix and match just like you did, combining original pieces and some cheaper “high street” finds. That being said, it’s important for us understand the need to educate ourselves on the impact of that purchase on the environment, other potential makers, etc no matter what price point we are looking at. I hope this doesn’t turn you off from ever posting items that aren’t handmade or come from a “prestigious”/independent brand, as I for one appreciate things that are aspirational but still accessible (to clarify, in this case I think it’s very good you came through because I would have been upset if I knew the purchase I made was at the detriment of the original maker).
I completely understand. I too use affordable items. That wasn’t what I meant. I meant that I want to focus on the design first. The cheaper napkin I used was a direct copy of a design, that I don’t commend for my work. I don’t want to influence people in buying knock offs. I do think affordable items are great. As a stylist it is important to be aware of it all. So do expect affordable items on my site, my intention was to own up.