I read an article in a South African magazine once, about one of my favorite designers in South Africa called 'Stoned Cherrie'. I like the clothes because they use a lot of 'recycling' of our past, with copies of old 'Drum' Magazine covers on T-shirts and a high fashion version of traditional African clothes. I got pretty mad with them in the article when they complained at how many small designers were 'ripping off' their designers on the cheap, though. Stoned Cherrie clothes, although of a very high quality, are horribly expensive and complaining about other people copying their ideas just means that they don't believe in everyone being able to enjoy the message behind their great designs.
It's something that I've been wondering about a lot lately - how copyright laws apply to the fashion industry. Today I found this great article on how copying is actually a way of life in the fashion industry. According to the article, the test for litigation is whether the copying results in any confusion as to who produced the article. I think it's great that copying in fashion has allowed everyone to have access to a great medium of modern day expression - if you can't afford it in the boutiques, chances are you'll find a much cheaper version just down the street.
On a heavier note, this article bemoans the fact that 'copyright protection is available for printed designs on fabric, as well as for sketches of a garment created by a designer, but the garment, itself, is not protected' and suggests that the European Economic Commission 'is working towards a new form of protection called "Community Design," which shall combine aspects of copyright and design patent protections.' It would be really sad if they are, in fact, looking at this still (the article was published in 1991), since it would mean that only the rich could afford to express themselves through fashion.