Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Message To The Consumer

About a week ago, I got fed up and angry with all the people who have copied my designs for production and profit. Last year, I was wondering where my customers were going and I found some copycats knocking me off here and in Canada. Well, this is what I wrote last week on Facebook and the response was pretty amazing. I wrote this not only with myself in mind (although I have been plenty worried for me) but for all my freinds, collegues, and people that I respect and admire.

This is not a black and white subject as there are many variables and reasons for why people do the things they do. But this is how I feel. Something has to change.

Enjoy the read whether you agree with me or not.


                                            A Message To The Consumer

Lately business almost everywhere has tanked. It has tanked for just about everyone. People don't have the spare cash they used to have. Or if they have it, they are fearfully hanging onto every penny for dear life. I get it. We're in a Depression. Things have changed. They will get better, but things have to change before it gets better and we are very uncomfortable for now.

My business has tanked as well. I turned away from my custom clothing business a few years ago and focused on a few products that were becoming popular in our little belly dance community and were actually starting to pay my rent and put food on the table. And as this is my sole means of support in an extremely expensive part of the world, you can imagine how happy this was making me. I wasn't running out and buying myself expensive shoes and clothing, I wasn't filling my flat with velvet curtains, lush rugs, and satin sheets, but I was able to run over to Ikea now and then and buy pattern boxes or a cheap little throw rug. I was able to keep buying fabric to make more things. My name got out there and I was able to take care of my basic needs. The future was looking up for this starving artist type.

And then, as is what always happens to those of us who have put forth great ideas or concepts and do not have the means to mass market/mass produce/have a backer or a second or third income coming in, we get squashed. We go under. We go work for the man and often disappear entirely. This is about to happen to me, I fear. I hope not. But the danger is ever present.

Over the last few years, I focused on putting out designs and products that were special, different, fit well, were well designed, and made you feel good about wearing. I created my price points to allow me to eat, buy more fabric to make more things, and to hopefully be affordable for most.

There are two well known "designers" - one here in California and one in Canada, besides a few smaller others, who have taken my designs and mass produced them or are trying to. They sell them online. They sell them at festivals and events. People are buying their products and not buying mine now - the very same thing, basically, and I'm close to going under. My product is better. It is lovelier, it is well made, it is unique (or was at any rate), and you may no longer be able to buy my wares soon , because there will be no point in my trying to make them for you. I have asked these women to cease and desist. They refuse. They claim that they too are running women owned businesses and gotta do what they gotta do. This just backs up my claim that most women are vicious and all this talk about supporting your sisters is bullshit. (sorry, a little anger here) I did make peace with one person who is doing her product a bit differently, but it was still too close to comfort for me.

My patterns are copyrighted, they cannot be reproduced for mass consumption unless by me, and my resources for fighting back have dwindled now because people are going for the knock offs. But I'm not letting go of this. If it doesn't help me, maybe it will help someone else down the road.

This happens over and over and over and over. Piracy is deadly to small artists and designers who cannot defend themselves. I have been harping on this for years now. I dropped the ball for a while, but its time to get back in the saddle again and speak up. When you buy knock offs, you are usually getting an inferior product, are making a purchase from a pirate who did not do the original hundreds of dollars of work that it takes to get an idea into public domain, they do not have the skills or talent that the originator of the idea has - although they often think they do and DO have the skills to snow you, the consumer, and they are taking money away from the person who started the idea. They care nothing about what happens to the originator of the idea/design. They want to steal their ideas, claim them as their own, and hope that the original goes away. This is about greed and nasty competition. This is happening in our belly dance community. Tribal. Wasn't it supposed to be better than that?

While I am not trying to sound whiny, it is happening to me and my colleagues at a very bad time. And I want the public and the consumer to be aware that this is happening all around them. Not everyone can be aware of these things. I doubt that most care. But for those who have a conscience and do care, please buy from the original designers. You are getting a piece of the artists soul. Our designs are our babies. Its what we are here on earth for - to create. We deserve as nice a life as anyone. We deserve a living wage and our prices have to reflect that. I know that most dont think of these things. I hear so often. "you want that for this?" Yet you want beauty and special things in your life. You have to provide the maker the means to do these things for you. Its not rocket science.

And is this piracy thing an ok thing to teach our children? We teach them not to steal, but we are stealing on a day to day basis when we don't buy the original product. This makes us hipocrits. Like with any product on the market: know what it is. Know whats in it. Know where it came from. Know who's behind it. Know what this product is doing to your environment and the living things in it.

Please note that I am not talking about being inspired by something and making your version of it. I am not talking about making something for yourself, your friends, your troupe, or your family. I am always pushing, pushing, pushing people to sew, to make, to create, to buy supplies and fabrics - to support the dwindling fabric stores and the almost non existent fabric industry in this country.

I WANT people to be creative. I want everyone to find their creative "Happy Place" and luxuriate there........what I am pushing for here is awareness of piracy for profit. Its not fair. Its not cool. Its deadly.

Thank you.

Model: Kristine Adams
Photo: Kristine Adams


Libby said...

Good on you, Kathleen. This is a very well-written post which I've shared to friends elsewhere--people need to read this. I like that you're able to encourage people to be inspired by you but to also stand up for your artwork and integrity.

I wish you much success and karmic retribution. :) I will do my best to support your business, and if not through money, then positive and extensive word-of-mouth. I have a lot of respect for you and your work.


Rhonda said...

I just wanted to let you know that even though I can't afford your designs right now, I wouldn't dream of buying from a knockoff. I actually sewed myself something that I thought "gee, I should sell this" - then after looking around a bit online, I noticed it's a near clone of your bum ruffles - so I decided to keep it to myself.

Anyhow, I'm sorry that people are stealing bread from your table, and as soon as things get a bit better for me here, I'm all over some fluffy rufflies!