The Knock Off Game
I will start off by saying that every artist steals. There is an art in doing so with grace. No artist has an original idea. Inspiration comes from all over and it is how the artist interprets their inspiration to turn it into their own unique vision which differentiates them from a thief.
When I started Sweet Midnight one of my mentors and friends told me to be prepared to be knocked off by other companies. She didn't prepare me for how much it would hurt when a friend and small business owner knocked off one of my designs AFTER she had purchased it. It ruined our friendship and it ruined any trust and respect I had for her or her company. I was shocked to watch her designs through the years and realize that I was not the only one she had done this too. It made me feel a little better for myself, but feel sorry for the other designers whom she had stolen from.
TOP PHOTO: The Shrunken Head Cardigan on the left I had made and put up for sale in my physical shop.
BOTTOM PHOTO: The Knock Off version that was being sold by my 'friend' 2 months later.
It happened again and again and again. With different companies, with my concepts, artwork, product and so on. I was even threatened by one designer and her followers for calling her out publicly on social media. It turned into an ugly situation that I lost sleep over. The strange thing was that all of these companies were based in the USA. Each time it happened my skin got a little thicker and thicker and thicker. To the point where I was expecting it to happen. Sad but true.
TOP PHOTO: My Haunted Hot Rod design.
BOTTOM PHOTO: The knock off of my design which was released a year after mine.
Never in a million years did I expect to be knocked off by China. Everyone knows that China rips off anything popular on Etsy and social media but never in my wildest nightmares did I think they would knock off one of my designs. When a friend sent me a link to one of my designs on one of those cheep dress sights, I was in complete shock.
At first I felt my heart sink into my stomach. Then a huge smile came to my face. I wasn't mad, like I was when the US companies had knocked me off. I had made it! I was knocked off by China! It seemed somehow like a huge accomplishment.
After I told my husband how I had finally made it as a designer because China ripped me off, I decided to purchase the item. Why you might ask. Well, the reason is super simple, I wanted to see how bad or good of a job they had done at knocking me off. I wanted to see if they somehow took my digital artwork and just applied it to their dress OR if they redrew it. The answer was the latter!
I waited not so patiently for three weeks for the dress to arrive. When it did I opened it with frantic anticipation. They did not steal my artwork, but instead traced or redrew my artwork and not very well. Some of the characters were not symmetrical, the colors were wrong, objects that were suppose to be in back of the character were in front, it was an extremely poor attempt.
TOP: My Halloween Party Animals artwork.
BOTTOM: The sad attempt at coping my art.
At the end of the day I had wished that they had done a better job at stealing my artwork and I was somewhat disappointed by their attempt. Though through the last 7 years this sad attempt at flattery actually boosted my ego, if just a little bit.
It won't be the last time this happens. I am now aware of that and fully anticipating it.
- Renee Harper