Tatty Devine vs Claire’s: The trickle-down effect, or outright copycatting?

Laura Davis

tattyclairesUntitled 1 254x300 Tatty Devine vs Claires: The trickle down effect, or outright copycatting?

Yesterday saw a backlash against high street chain Claire’s Accessories for appearing to copy designs by Tatty Devine.

In a blog on Tatty Devine’s website, the company points out the similarities between several of their own designs, and that of Claire’s, insinuating there’s some copycat fashion going on. They then asked readers to comment.

Known for its quirky and unique signature style, it’s clear that this range at Claire’s has more than strong similarities to Tatty Devine’s designs, but there are counterarguments to be considered.

Tatty Devine innovators Rosie Wolfenden and Harriet Vine have previously offered tips on creating a Tatty Devine style, and even have a book offering their expertise. They seem to actively promote others mimicking their style when it comes to promotion and profit for the brand.

They also started their fashion line using everyday objects such as cake decorations and plectrums, which in fairness, are pre-designed objects.

Now that the brand has found commercial and critical success, they have strong views on other chains copying their designs and actively have pointed out when this has happened.

After the backlash on Twitter against Claire’s, a spokesman for the company said: “Claire’s is aware of the blog post on the blog and is currently investigating these comments.”

The high street chain have previously been accused of allegedly copying independent artists. The company was criticised earlier this year for appearing to copy a necklace design from graphic designer Laura Figiel.

Anyone can see that this is indeed a grey area in law, as shops mimic both catwalk and other labels fashion in ranges every season. The trickle-down effect in fashion has been seen through the ages, it’s not a modern phenomenon.

There have even been instances among higher range designer brands. Last year, YSL was accused by French shoemaker Christian Louboutin of stealing the design of red soled shoes, which led to a New York Court decision that gave rival company Yves Saint Laurent permission to produce the same design – and not only that, but all other rivals, to copy the design. Last month the company appealed the decision in court. Can it be feasible to monopolise the market on the colour red?

The Independent has also previously reported on Jimmy Choo’s legal action against high street stores. Tamara Mellon, president of the company, targeted high street stores Warehouse, Oasis, Marks and Spencer, Jane Stilton, Shoe Studio and New Look and received payouts from the stores for their copycat designs.

The issue of counterfeit takes the matter onto a new level. Last July, Louis Viutton and Burberry won Canada’s largest trademark counterfeit and copyright case, awarded £1.63million in damages from Singga Enterprises Inc and Carnation Fashion Company who had both been selling fake handbags. Attempting to sell counterfeit or ‘knock-off’ goods are clear cases of infringement and less of a ‘grey’ area of law.  Likewise, brand owners are more likely to ensure that they are financially compensated sufficiently following a successful prosecution in such cases.

The Tatty Devine scandal provokes some interesting questions concerning the industry.

You can sketch a great artwork but that doesn’t mean others will necessarily want to buy your  version of it. So with more expensive designer ranges, are you paying for the brand or the design? Designers often cite quality as the justification for charging extortionate prices, so if it can be made available more cheaply, why shouldn’t people be able to afford the items? Some of the items available from Tatty Devine are affordable but others are removed from a more reasonably price range. As Claire’s predominantly cater to children and the teenage girl market, it could be argued that stopping lower-priced shops offering similar designs could send the message to young children that only brand names are worth owning.

Should you be able to protect a design that has no functionality or science behind it? It will be interesting to see how this story pans out.

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  • Inkypuss

    Where do you draw the line? Tatty Devine had an article in the Guardian recently showing you how to make Tatty Devine jewellery which involved baking crisp packets to make them shrink – this was around when I was a child some 30 years ago.

  • Clare Selina Farmer

    Tatty Devine’s fish bone design is not original, seriously, how many time have we all seen this design in cartoons etc? I’m not a huge fan of big brands taking over the world but this is ridiculous nitpicking by a company that actively encourages people to copy their ideas. I made something inspired by the Tatty Devine book recently and, here’s the thing, I sold it… so sue me! 

  • Clare Selina Farmer

    using pre-made elements and hanging them on a pendant, particularly if the arrangement of those elements does not result in an original item (the fish bone design is as old as the hills, watch some old 1930’s cartoons if you don’t believe me) does not amount to an original design and therefore cannot be stolen.

  • Clare Selina Farmer

    I addition, a few years ago when Tatty Devine was a fledgling company they were delighted to have their “brand” copied in order to get a name for themselves… now they’ve made it to the big time, craft snobbery has kicked in and they’re biting the hand that’s fed them… take your heads out of your own backsides why don’t you!

  • genoff

    So, when we have a small-scale user community, sharing an album or two, it is piracy, but when we have an EXACT same copy of a design, even if the design is by somebody, who encourages you to imitate his style, even if the idea exists for decades. We are talking about the exact same copy, only differing in the strap or the colour. Look at the shapes. We’re not talking about an idea stolen. We are talking about a rip-off.

    And for those of you guys, who are stating that “Tatty Devine” does not have the right to complain – have you actually thought that today it’d be just ripping off the design, tomorrow it’d be claiming that it is your own? What’d happen then with Tatty’s idea to encourage creativity, to create the same pieces of jewellery? Just imagine some big corporate ass suing you for copyright infringement. They won’t give a flying fig if the design is actually theirs. Just like they don’t give it now when it comes to pile bucks from songs, that are not theirs.

  • marksplinter

    In which 1930s cartoons did you see black plastic fishbone necklaces the same shape as these? My guess is: none.

  • marksplinter

    Claire’s made identical ripoffs of another company’s design. Tatty Devine shrunk some crisp packets, a technique that thousands of people have used for years. Can you see the difference? You answered your own question.

  • Guest

    Claire’s ripped off a specific design identically. They didn’t just do “various forms”. There’s your answer.

    If you need more legal info, read a book, or check inside your ass where your head probably is.

  • Guest

    good luck with that argument in court.

  • MariCat

    I have sympathy for Tatty Devine and other small companies who have had their designs copied by large companies. I think it is clear that designs such as the dinosaur and banana have been ripped off here – if someone said at Claire’s ‘hey, lets put a dinosaur on a necklace’ without having seen Tatty Devine’s collection, you wouldn’t expect it to come out looking almost identical to this design, it could take many forms. However, I think that Tatty weaken their argument somewhat by using the moustache and glasses necklaces as evidence of copying. These are quite generic designs and the moustache and glasses are motifs which are very popular in fashion and have been for some time. They can be found on all sorts of things – jewellery, stationery, clothing, mugs – made by both large and small independent companies. I think it would be extremely difficult to prove that Claire’s were copying them with those items as I have seen almost identical products sold by many others, who is to say who had the original idea, and it is hardly unlikely that someone who had never seen a Tatty Devine product may have come up with the idea themselves without knowing someone else had already done it. While I doubt this is the case here, I just don’t see how they could prove whose idea they copied, Tatty Devine is by no means the only small independent company who has come up with the idea to put a moustache on a necklace like this.

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