Faking It: Originals, Copies, and Counterfeits

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Mary Ping Spring/Summer 2015 Collection[1]

In the presentation, fashion designer Mary Ping introduced both of the signature collections shown under her name along with her more experimental line titled Slow and Steady Wins the Race. To a vast extent, her hybrid identity and focus on the fundamental characteristics of clothing design within the global fashion system resonate with the current exhibition, Faking It: Originals, Copies, and Counterfeits at Fashion Institute of Technology. It reminded me that authenticity and copyright protection against knock offs are two of the most debated topics in fashion today.

I came up with questions about gray areas in authenticity when I visited the exhibition a few weeks ago. What is the intention when young, contemporary designers reinterpret signs from the original? How do they differentiate themselves and avoid establishing a new symbolic capital as well as a cultural capital within their design? Because their target may not be a mass audience, how do they survive the competition by concentrating on a niche market?

For instance, Los Angeles designer Brian Lichtenberg created a witty interpretation of the Hermes logo with his “Homies” collection, which is featured in the exhibit. I am surprised that I found the answers through Mary’s presentation, especially when she explained the process of brand decoding and recoding in her Slow and Steady line. She said, “I am not into authentic bags or ‘It’ bags. I feel they [accessory designers] did not create anything new, instead they made something the consumers want.” Nevertheless, Hazel Clark illustrates that the reinterpretation of the 2003 Balenciaga motorcycle bag became enormously popular.[2] Does this mean to some degree that she also created a new “It” bag for her audience? What if the people who buy it do not share the same sense of humor (or know fashion enough to be able to play with it), and simply follow the trend of wanting spectacle and newness?

After the presentation, I asked Mary about her thoughts on the future of the fashion system and why many designers produce at least four collections a year? She believes that the fashion cycle will slow down and although, she still presents her signature collection twice a year, she is doubtful of their ability to maintain creativity. In general, I think Mary’s career is a positive example for design students who are passionate about being conceptual instead of being commercial. It returns to the question: how do you define success? I suppose it does not matter if the mainstream associates success with money, prestige, and power; it is more about the way we chase our dreams and interact within society and the world.

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Slow and Steady Wins the Race[3]

[1] http://maryping.com

[2] Hazel Clark, “SLOW + FASHION – an Oxymoron – or a Promise for the Future…?,” in Fashion Theory 12, no. 4 (2008): 436.

[3] http://www.slowandsteadywinstherace.com

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