Thursday, October 16, 2008

Crime Of Fashion: Plagiarism On Project Runway

Left: Alexander McQueen Fall 2008; Right: Kenley Collins on Project Runway

Left: Balenciaga Spring 2008; Right: Kenley Collins on Project Runway
As an educator, I've been forced to face the ugly result of Internet convenience: plagiarized work. (Since September, I've already found three cases of plagiarism from online sources.) Although fashion is no stranger to that--just peruse the copious vendors in Chinatown for a lesson in knock-offs--, I still find it shocking to see it done so blatantly on a show/competition like Project Runway. And even though the judges did call Kenley on that (a charge which she vociferously denied), they seemed more irritated than outraged. The above examples clearly illustrate what is obvious copying--a crime of fashion that should have automatically eliminated Kenley from progressing to the tents at Bryant Park.
Critic Harold Bloom has written about the "anxiety of influence" that writers feel when they metaphorically look up to their gifted predecessors. In some ways, it is true that "there is nothing new under the sun," and we are all, in various ways, required to borrow and build on the ideas of others. But when artistic integrity is called into question--and here I firmly believe designers are in the same category as writers or artists--it is absolutely critical to establish a honest individual perspective. There is a fine line between obsequious referencing and exact recreations (note even the subtle details on the first example, down to the feather on the head and the white shoes). Kenley's inability to make that distinction is what ultimately caused her to lose to her much more talented competitor, Leanne.


miss cavendish said...

I'm so glad you've posted this.

I never expected the feather dress to look SO MUCH LIKE the McQueen beauty, even though the judges pointed out its similarity. And the Balenciaga knockoff is painfully obvious (there's also a Kenley "design" with an exaggerated Balenciaga skirt that I noticed).

This is absolutely fashion plagiarism at its most annoying, because these designs are *supposed* to be original, unlike, say, the ABS Oscar gown affordable versions.

These clothes have lost their, ahem, Bloom indeed.

I'd fail Kenley for the course and send a letter to the dean to keep in her file.

miss cavendish said...

p.s. I've been thinking about this matter all day--this topic is a fantastic intersection of career and passion for me--and have put up a modest post, with props and links to you, of course!

Songy said...

Oh dear. They do look so similar. It's one thing to get some ideas but something else entirely to copy the feel, shape, colour and everything else. Couldn't she have gone a little further to get ideas say something off 1990s instead of 2008?! This is shameless.

Amol said...

I couldn't believe that Kenley would stoop as low as to steal others ideas. Seriously as if she didn't know. And the thought of either situation does not put her in a good light. If she's lying to cover her tracks than she is a lying, cheating competitor but if she honestly didn't know then, well, she needs to open her eyes and look around every so often. Not to say she shouldn't try new things but ideas overlap sometimes but the extent to which her "own" designs and Mcqueen's designs overlap seem painfully the same as for her not to know or notice. I'm glad Leanne won, for she honestly deserved to have done so. I think she is talented and has a clear and original point of view all her own.

Ms Unreliable said...

This is actually quite painful to look at. This kind of infringement is so common in the creative industries, but to go on a national television show and try to get away with it? Eek!