Indie Design vs The High Street

Now it’s no secret that big high street chains like to rip off the independent designer, whether it be jewellery graphics or illustration.
Unfortunately it seems that the average person doesn’t really have a leg to stand on in such situations. Although the introduction of sites such as Twitter and Facebook have been giving the indie designers a new medium to voice their disgruntlement and make others aware of the back handed techniques of high street shops, the act of them stealing designs still seems to be happening on a more frequent basis. I know I only have 37 followers on my blog, but that’s 37 more people aware of this culture and can help to spread the word to help prevent it happening more often in the future.

Last year there was the case of paperchase vs hidden eloise, this seems to be the pinnacle case referred to when design stealing is mentioned. See:
the reaction from social networking site ‘word of mouth’ was so phenomenal that it forced paperchase to withdraw the designs from sale….
More recently (in the past week) there has been two separate incidents of indie design theft.
First was illustrator Gemma Correll’s ‘bonjour’ pug design stolen by Gap:
And second one in a row is the ‘She Draws’ telephone design stolen by Claires Accessories:

I suppose people who shop solely on the high street that aren’t ‘into’ the indie craft and design scene wouldn’t be aware of this theft faux pas. But that is why more people need to make others aware of this happening. The thing that gets me is that the indie designers items for sale aren’t even any more expensive than the items in high street shops!

Now how does it happen?
The only way I can fathom this out, is that a sneaky little urchin wandering the internet has seen such designs and approached the companies claiming the design to be that of their own. So that’s the high street chains accountability through the window. But surely they should have some kind of filtering system where someones job is to simply ‘google’ the designs basic features to see if a similar design exists?
When I have an idea to make a piece I always google to make sure I haven’t subliminally seen the design somewhere else first…. example: pollen pin brooch…. I had the idea, googled, saw nothing there like what I had in mind, so made it. Simple.

How to tackle the problem in future?
Well, unless you are one of rich earnings, you will come to little avail if your design has been ripped off, costing thousands of pounds in legal fee’s and even then with no guarantee of any compensation or recognition.
The only thing that is readily available for designers at the moment is the social network technique and spreading the word utilising these sources. This may be disheartening but as proven by the Hidden Eloise case it does work and I’m sure paperchase will be much more vigilant in the designs chosen in future (I scoff at that mind, their lines at the end of last year were blatant Blythe and Emily Strange rip offs, but worse, much worse)  Twitter is an excellent source to name and shame the companies as a public forum it’s great for @-ing directly to the companies themselves making them immediately aware of whats going on. And if enough people retweet then the pressure of this ‘naming and shaming’ if done in high enough numbers should force the companies to take action.

On the flip side of all of this, I guess if a company liked one ripped off design of yours they may be interested in your other designs. For example, Gap has ripped off Gemma Corrells pug illustration and obviously the company liked the design (be it the original or not) so what’s to say they wouldn’t be interested in other designs of hers? I would approach them directly with a view that they may be interested in purchasing other illustrations in the collection for multiple production. But I guess that’s not what indie design is all about. That’s a rather defeatist approach to the situation I suppose. Haha.

Anyway the point is, just be aware of these things, especially if you’re a designer yourself, it’s essential to be aware of these back handed techniques and how the industry works, shitty as it is.

Check out for further examples.