Tuesday, 28 September 2010

...like a blogger scorned

EDIT Please read the comments below to see Ty McBride from Jeffrey Campbell's response, followed by my own. Thanks to the power of social media, friends, and fellow bloggers, I was able to get my message across. I was really impressed that Ty took the time to respond and I think JC did a great job rectifying and addressing the situation in such a timely manner; it is nice to know that they do listen to their customers. A thank you to Ty again, and to all my readers who helped get Jeffrey Campbell's attention!

About a month ago, I entered a Jeffrey Campbell shoe design contest via Chictopia. I was thrilled when they also blogged about my Edie Sedgwick collage. (Yay! They were reading my blog, they must've looked at my design too!)

This was my entry:

A few days ago, I saw this shoe posted on the Jeffrey Campbell blog, which was also pointed out to me by a friend of mine.

My initial feelings were mixed. A bit of excitement (Did I win? Did I win???) and a bit of disappointment (Probably not).

I know the JC blog had been filled with vicious comments about the competition for a while now - with other people also miffed about some new Jeffrey Campbell designs seeming a little too inspired.

Anyway, further research led me to find the shoe being stocked at Modcloth - but since then, it has disappeared off the website. The lovely Modcloth employee I spoke to on live support was just as baffled as I was, and said this particular shoe's information was a bit strange, there were no order dates or reasons as to why it was removed.

After a little bit of thinking, I decided to write Jeffrey Campbell, Chictopia and Shop Akira an email to maybe help shed some light on the situation.

At this point, I was feeling quite perplexed - and let's face it, a little upset - at why a near identical shoe to one which I submitted to a contest for that same company, was now being sold/promoted on their website.

This is the email I wrote:

Hi there,

Firstly, I wanted to let you know how much I'm a fan of Jeffrey Campbell shoes. Denmark and Lita are currently on the top of my wish-list at the moment. I was really thrilled when the JC blog linked my to my blog post featuring the Lita shoe!

What I am also writing to you about is regarding the Jeffrey Campbell My Way contest, as featured on Chictopia.

I entered this competition, and my friend pointed out these shoes she saw on the Jeffrey Campbell blog today: http://www.modcloth.com/store/ModCloth/Womens/Shoes/Wedges/Hot+Buttered+Rum+Wedge

They look identical to my entry, except for the wedge, and bow instead of the tassels.

What I was wondering was, did win the competition somehow without being informed? I know the winners have yet to be announced, so I do hope this is the case, as the similarities are quite evident!

I don't mean to sound pedantic, but I also didn't see anywhere in the terms and conditions of the contest where it says that a submission means that the design can be freely used even if it isn't the winning entry.

Anyway, thank you for reading and I do hope this is just a mix up! Hopefully you can shed some light on the situation.

Kindest regards,
Mari Santos

Hoping for at least a little recognition that the design was similar, this is what I received in return:

Hello Mari!
The style featured on Mod Cloth is our ALISON, we have been showing that sample since March of this year.  Mod Cloth placed their order for the style back in June.
Thank you,
Sharon B
Jeffrey Campbell Shoes
Los Angeles, CA

Fair enough. Lots of ideas in fashion are similar - so I fully accept that the sample could have been created in March. To the dismay of much more zealous and supportive friends, I am giving Jeffrey Campbell the benefit of the doubt - but here's my issue.

I would have appreciated if they at least addressed my feelings, or empathized with my situation. A simple, "Yes! We can definitely see why you were concerned, the shoe is totally similar!"

Because. This. Has. Happened. Before.

Spot the Jeffrey Campbells!

What really irks me is that a company who is clearly unabashed about their inspiration and influences, fails to even acknowledge that someone who entered their own contest (because they enjoy the brand, and believe that Jeffrey Campbell original designs are absolutely gorgeous), has previously submitted a design pretty much identical to a shoe that has just been released.

Something completely simple like 'Yeah, totally, they do look similar! Great minds think alike' would have been at least appreciative - maybe some token saccharine words towards a supportive customer who has gone so far as to enter a contest for the brand. Anything that would've been even mildly indicative of the similarities, would have sufficed.

I guess in this blogosphere/internet world, it's easy for designers to feel cheated and vulnerable - especially for small-time business owners who attempt to earn a living from their creativity.

I appreciate that Jeffrey Campbell tries to bring a high-end shoe style to a price range that is a little more in tune with the masses (although, I wouldn't really call them 'cheap'), but when I felt as though (prior to the email) this had been encroaching my territory - I felt really manipulated. This "Robin Hood" style of stealing no longer applied - I'm not a million dollar company - just a girl with loads of student debt who decided to enter a contest to possibly win a pair of shoes she probably wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise.

This brings us to a whole other topic of fashion democracy - can or should designs be copyrighted? It's such controversial territory. Fashion, for many, is their art, a craft honed and painstakingly worked on. To see something of theirs completely taken away by a larger, high profit making company (not to say that is what happened in this case, but the events that transpired did motivate me to write this post) without receiving any benefit from this 'transaction' seems ludicrous.

I am, however, not above picking up the latest designer knock-off from H&M, when I know very well I can't afford the real-deal - so that's where it gets a bit muddled. Maybe a happy solution would be that those that make under a certain amount a year should be allowed to copyright their work - so big companies won't be able to reap the benefits off a designer that can barely afford to pay their rent!

To bloggers, artists, creators - I think caution is definitely key when it comes to entering competitions like these.

On the plus side, anyone that did like my design - you can now find something very similar at your local Jeffrey Campbell stockist. Maybe you can ask them if they'll make it in a stacked heel instead of a wedge next time.

Cute right? I'm still keen to add a pair of woolly socks.

Mari x

Please reblog/comment/link/tweet as you see fit.

EDIT Please read the comments below to see Ty McBride from Jeffrey Campbell's response, followed by my own. Thanks to the power of social media, friends, and fellow bloggers, I was able to get my message across. I was really impressed that Ty took the time to respond and I think JC did a great job rectifying and addressing the situation in such a timely manner; it is nice to know that they do listen to their customers. A thank you to Ty again, and to all my readers who helped get Jeffrey Campbell's attention!


Poster Girl said...

This is a tricky situation. I'm both a blogger and a fan of JC shoes. I know that their designs are often inspired by (or copies) of designer pieces. I can't afford the designer versions, but JC's rice point are attainable for me.

As a blogger, I understand how you'd be upset and disappointed by them not acknowledging the similarities between your submission and the shoe for sale. I truly hope they did not use the contest submissions for design ideas. In any case, I like your version better.

In these days of increasing blogger popularity and influence, it's easy for companies to take advantage of bloggers in many ways (whether it's using their photos in an ad campaign, using their blogs for editorial coverage with nothing in return, etc.). As bloggers we have to be wary of non mutually beneficial relationships and we should demand respect, since we're gaining influence and readers. I think someone owes you an apology.

Anonymous said...

I really hope that they at least acknowledge who u are after this post. I just can't believe how much of a douche this company is for not even emphatizing with you.

I noticed that some of their shoes had "similarities" with certain designer brands but never actually thought they would blatantly copy some of them. Thank you for that links by the way. It just comes to show that originality doesn't really exist within this company anymore. Thanks to this, my love for JC has totally fizzled.

Brown girl in the ring said...

I really want those shoes. Lovely blog. Keep up the good work :)


Oh sweetbeans! how atrocious, no worries, lucky for me, my next rap-album I will dis/associate J.Cambell like how Jay-Z no longer raps about Cristal champagne after the company were found to be racist mofos and removed them from his clubs..

yes that will be the best revenge I can provide. or maybe...this is like when apple hired hackers because they were so good might as well hire them?...ur time to rise is too soon, enjoy humbling stories of how people tried to rip you, cuz one day they just won't know HOW...

peace and love

TUR said...

Hi Mari! thanks for your comment on my blog, glad you liked the hats!
I still loooooove your design on the shoes. It's kind of weird that JC now have the very similar. He absolutely must have been inspired by you haha. At least you can buy your own design now!
Love, Hanna

Judy said...

Wow, I have a hard time liking JC after reading this post!

A simple "sorry for the misunderstanding" at the end could have sufficed! Your email to them was so sweet & they returned with such a cold disposition.

In any case, I think the tassles & stacked heel make the shoe more elegant.

JC could make it up to you sending you a pair of shoes. SERIOUSLY.

Reblogging this!


Anonymous said...

Dear Mari

I wanted to reach out with you on behalf of Jeffrey Campbell and the creative team here at JC. I work on our blog, twitter and this campaign with Chictopia and Akira.

There are many inspirations and trending steps that come with shoe design and the manufacturing process. There are many elements and steps taken to create our line and collections. I thought your post here was well written and expressed. However, The shoes in question have been part of our collection for sometime--and the timeline for shoe production is months in the making, over 95 days from start to retail---and includes many steps. I can tell you these shoes were already started before the contest even launched. While we love your entry, and your concept for you shoe--the shoe in question was inspired by a vintage shoe---and was chosen based on our love of fringe, tassels and 1970 vintage school girl concepts.

I would love to talk more with you about this, as I can see that it is an issue with you and of interest to your readers. I wanted to take the first step to assure you that this shoe was not copied from your creation---and that I would love to speak more with you about it if you have the time for a phone call.

We are a small company of six employees, we work very hard to create shoes, and looks that are fun, vibrant, cool and fashionable. As you mentioned we take nods from lots of trends and fashion concepts--but I wanted to reach out to let you know this was not the case with your submission. Again, I would love to speak with you more about this if you have an interest--please feel free to contact me at Ty@jeffreycampbellshoes.com.

Thanks for the chance to address this and I look forward to speaking with you.

Jeffrey Campbell

Katy said...

Hi Mari! wow! at first as I was reading your post, I really thought that you've won. I feel you, it's quite disappointing when we saw a similar design like ours. (I design too! but i design dress.) I guess in this case, we as an artist should just keep our head high and look at the bright side at least there's a similar design came alive (made into a real shoe):) I believe if we try hard and keep doing what we do best, one day people will discover us and change history!:)

Anonymous said...

Dear Mari,

If they did try to rip your shoe, they failed. Your version is much cuter. Too bad JC-- your just like JC from N'Sync, gayolameo.
Love ikhan

mari said...

Thanks for all your comments and support, everyone. Really tricky topic, and I just really wanted to also address the situation of designer copyright.

Ty, thank you for taking the time to respond - if I had received something more along these lines as an initial response, I wouldn't have posted this in the first place. I totally understand that it is almost impossible to find any sort of originality in fashion, and overlaps often do take place. Everything is indeed inspired. I don't doubt that these shoes were started before the competition.

I do, however, think creatives just really have to be careful about what they put out there, copying does occur - and it is a reality that lots of new designers have to face - I've seen it happen to my own friends. So I hope you can understand how it was rather jarring to see a new shoe released looking quite similar to the one I submitted to a contest.

What I did want to address was the tone and brevity of the reply I received - just the fact that there was no mention, or even any acknowledgment that the shoe was strangely similar. I would have very much appreciated that - I could have then at least contented myself with the thought that 'hey, at least I did have an idea that was just as good as a legit shoe designer's!' Anything that would've acknowledged that the brand understood the shoes were similar would've sufficed, to be honest.

I have long been a fan of the Jeffrey Campbell brand - like I said, I appreciate what you do by bringing a more affordable shoe to the mainstream. But it just took a different turn once when it felt as though it hit a little close to home, and then the email I received without so much as a "Sorry for the misunderstanding" didn't do much to help. It just seemed strange to receive such a cold email from a brand that I quite admired and even blogged about previously!

Anyway, thank you for clearing this up. I really do appreciate you taking the time to write back to me.

I'll also send this, and a couple more thoughts through, via email.

Thank you again,

Anonymous said...

Wow, your design is so much cuter! I wish they had used your design instead of the wedge!