Designers can find inspiration anywhere, whether it be from historical figures, fictional characters, places visited in their travels, or even other’s works. Referencing is not unusual in the design world, and in fact, it is fairly common. In the case of referencing other designers’ work, there is a fine line between paying homage by referencing elements to blatantly plagiarizing another’s work. Here we will explore some examples of referencing to varying degrees.
In an allowable amount, you can see some borrowed ideas, without bordering on plagiarism. Possible references for this Balenciaga Bazar bag can be found in Prada’s Baiadera Tote. Stripes are not indicative of inspiration, however the varying widths and symmetry from the centerpoint of the bag makes this plausible. The Bazar Tote’s flat handles, top stitch and outside position are not common amongst Balenciaga’s bags,and seen more in Prada’s.
Balenciaga’s Bazar Tote also takes cues from Louis Vuitton’s 2007 buzzworthy Laundry Bag whose styling elements include top-stitched lay-flat handles, printed leather and crinkled texture. The trail does not end there however, this Louis Vuitton shopper was inspired by and is a replica of laundry bags carried by the immigrant working class of New York City.
This blatant knock off of Ikea’s household FRAKTA tote (which can be purchased for a mere $0.99), created waves last year and sparked discussions on plagiarism in the fashion industry. For most, this would be seen as plagiarism, and they wouldn't be wrong. However, considering the man behind the design, Demna Gvasalia, and his affinity for blurring the lines between low-key streetwear and luxe fashion, this was bound to happen. Gvasalia’s Margiela-eque design approach and aesthetic has turned Balenciaga into a polished version of it’s sister label, Vetements, who is known for their high/low aesthetic and deconstructionist sensibilities.
Over the line, or not - you be the judge. Ikea, however responded with a sense of humor.
The iconic Birkin bag has been around since 1984 and has had a significant cultural impact on the luxury fashion world and beyond. Making headlines with its international auction price points, clientele and exclusive wait lists, it’s of no surprise the bag has inspired designers to produce similar styles. It’s easy to spot the similarities between Saint Laurent’s Sac de Jour, and the Hermes Birkin. Dual, flat-stitched rolled handles and similar drop length, and the belted top portion of the Sac de Jour and gusseted sides bare a close resemblance to the Birkin as well. Borrowed details and accessories can be found on the Sac de Jour such as a lock and key covered by a clochette are affixed to the handle. Lastly, the branding of the Sac de Jour is as delicate and discreet as the Birkin, a simple gold or silver foil stamp can be found in identical position on both bags at the front of the bag by the opening. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and I think Saint Laurent was respectful enough to pay homage to, but not overstep into plagiarism territory.
Perhaps it’s hard to reinvent the simple open tote, so there will be leeway given to Louis Vuitton in this instance, however the small details used to construct the house’s 2007 Neverfull Tote are quite close to those of the St. Louis tote by Goyard. The glaring obvious repeating monogram canvas can be seen on both bags, however this is not unusual considering the history of both houses are deeply entrenched in the luxury of travel, and therefore a durable canvas is common material for handbags.
Similarly, the Neverfull’s handles lay flat, have a similar drop, and are positioned the same as the St. Louis. On both bags, handles and trims are made of leather; Louis Vuitton’s Neverfull is made of the house’s famous vachetta leather, while Goyard’s St. Louis uses the houses ‘stacked leather’ technique employed by skilled artisans to achieve a high quality, durable handle. The key differentiating detail in the Neverfull are the slide laces used to change the shape and even close the tote. Fastened by gold-brass hardware and linked to rings, this detail not only adds function, but enough differentiation and versatility to make this bag unique and not a knock-off of the St. Louis.