Iris & Daniel: Cavalli Calls Out Kors, American Fashion’s Copycat Identity

December 23, 2013 • Fashion

So like, in an interview with Style.com, Roberto Cavalli just blasted Michael Kors for being the copycat he truly be–finally–and it was hilarious. His comments are strikingly candid in the glossily polite fashion industry, but they aren’t unwarranted or untrue. Because Kors’ last couple collections weren’t that horrible? We were kinda into them? But we also kinda hate him. And it’s all really funny and orange. Let’s deal with Cavalli calling out Kors and American fashion’s identity as the copycat.

Cavalli

Daniel: I hate when (all!) designers make over-generalized statements about style like “every woman should wear…” and Cavalli is guilty of doing that in this interview, but mostly he’s really just speaking truth from his unique perspective as a designer and a business person within an industry that’s really convoluted. The growing business of Michael Kors says a lot about American style because right now, he is definitive of it. Like he’s one of the most Google’d people in fashion and that’s telling of how people consume but also form ideas about the industry, and Cavalli’s right. It isn’t really fair. But what makes something fair in fashion, when copying, trending, and influencing are all fluid?

Iris: IDEK because I agree with the idea that no idea is ever original and it’s just some other thing being reinvented in someway. Though there are times when it’s really obvious when a designer, I guess, copies another designer and people point it out. And nothing happens because it’s blurry to say who owns what in clothes making, even when it’s so obvious. Like in Summer I read some article about Mary Kate & Ashley being accused of copying Rick Owens and Ann Demeulemeester all the time. But it also said how they were very good at copying them. That’s totally an idea to dig through because the rules of plagiarism aren’t as defined in fashion and there’s some “copying” that works and makes sense and I like. I’m usually not into calling out people for “copying,” but in this case it’s kinda valid and makes total sense.

Daniel: Ikr, like what is good copying and bad copying? Ukwim? But in terms of Kors (and a lot of what goes down in NYFW), it’s so apparent he’s not even hiding it. There are literal copies of Dior dresses in his collections and all his newer bags have Célinewings and are in Prada Saffiano leather with jewel studs on them. Contrast that with his older bags: indistinguishable monogrammed totes. Like, it’s very much about buying into the trends of the moment. He’s doing H&M/Zara on a higher level, so it’s brag worthy enough but it’s not like actually doing anything uniquely his own. But you can’t even say that it’s only him doing it because even Prada (read: everyone) sells a winged bag because of Céline popularity. [see slide 7]

There’s nothing wrong with liking a copy. At the root of it, there’s nothing wrong for American people to buy into American fashion because of its ease and simple accessibility in any department store across the country. But, there’s something unsettling in the ease that American designers will push “design” that doesn’t attempt to create its own message or challenge their own histories. What’s clever about the designers Kors copies isn’t that they are making anything inherently new, it’s that they interpret and think about clothing in relation to their own respective worlds. Miuccia Prada explores her insecurities and Cavalli revels in his very real Miami Cavalli Club. The reason Michael Kors’ last Spring collection was so well received is because it played with American sportswear at its purest form: collegiate knits, flirty denim, and lightweight khaki. Kors has a strong, recognizable brand of glossy Hollywood bronzed beauty. If only his collections had such a strong identity. 

So is American fashion in an identity crisis as copycat? Kinda. But it’s also attributable to the external forces of a gigantic schedule that gives platforms to design without solid identity and a history of “inferiority” to European fashion. We’re thinking we all just need to get over it and stop shining spotlights on messy copycat fashion. But it’s also our own fault for building a celebrity and then allowing him to rule our national fashion message. Cavalli reminds us that what we consume is “not American fashion. [Kors] is international fashion made in America. It’s not fair.” We accept that this article fails to achieve what we should really do for American fashion: focus on designers and brands who have personal, interesting messages we can trust both commercially and creatively.

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