Is The Fashion Industry Dealing With Fashion Copycats?

Quite frankly, dealing with copycats has been a long standing concern in the Fashion Industry. Fashion doesn’t have the same copyright protection as other creative media. Which means it’s easy for copycats to get away with theft. But before we dive into the gist, let’s understand what copycat Fashion or knockoff fashion is.

To copy a design simply means to produce the same item made by another Designer without getting a license to do so. In most cases, it is sold for a less price.

 From my point of view, there are two ways to it. Sometimes big brands rip off designs they have seen on a runway, mass produce them and sell at lower prices. 

 In other cases, some designers just pick up pictures off the internet to replicate in their collection or a bespoke service. I get to hear some designers say once they change the sleeves and the neckline, then it’s their design! But we all know that is so not true! Well, some folks might say …

“ What has been will be again, and what has been done will be done again”

As regards the impact of copycats in the fashion industry, there are two schools of thought. According to insights and analysis shared by BOF;

 “Some say copycats dilute brand equity and damage sales, reducing incentives to innovate. Others argue that copycats are, in fact, healthy for the fashion industry, because they keep trend cycles turning”…

Dealing with copycats in fashion retail

Apparently, not everyone in the Fashion Industry is in support of dealing with copycats. This makes it easier for copycats to get away in a lot of instances. Moreso, these so-called copycats are quick to taking action. They turn out knockoffs in a matter of few days even before the original designs are produced. Is there really a permanent solution to this? Should we fold our arms and accept that it is part of the journey?

Does Intellectual Property Law Exist in the Fashion Industry?

Well, the obvious truth is that not everyone is embracing the ideology that copycat is as old as the Fashion Industry itself. Flashback to the year 2019, when one of the top Nigeria fashion brands, Deola Sagoe issued an intellectual property warning prior to the unveiling of the Deola Tropical Galactica SS20 01 Surreal™️ collection. This was in a bid to set her brand apart  and protecting her brand from the copycat plague.

In other words, some Designers have taken great steps to get legal protection for their designs. However, this law varies significantly in different countries. For instance, in the United States, fashion designs are exempt from copyright protection. Now you are wondering how exactly can you deal with the situation, right?

Firstly, you have to face the reality that some brands are out for making money alone. Nothing about creativity. Even the big brands like Zara and Forever 21 consistently knockoff designs from the Runway. More so, these brands have adopted technology into their businesses. They have been able to study the consumer behaviour, trends and how a certain design is perceived by the consumers.

Bottom line, be ready to deal with the copycats!




To stand out from the crowd means you are ready to put in the work. You have to create some uniqueness in how you present your designs to your target market. Be creative in your styling, photoshoot, packaging and even your adverts.

Beyond adding watermarks and a unique logo, let your brand identity and aesthetics reflect in your business. Sell the feelings to your consumer so they can spot the difference between your product and the knockoffs.


protect your designs

You can’t copyright types of clothing but you can copyright your unique prints and also register a patent for truly unique items. So ensure you register your designs under the Patents and Designs Act. For further reading on “Intellectual Property and Fashion in Nigeria” take a look at this article.

Do not for once think your business is too small or assume no one can copy your works. Do your research and take all necessary actions.



Work with a garment production house that has a credible reputation. You shouldn’t work with people who’ll reproduce or sell your designs or patterns. Prepare an NDA-non disclosure agreement and make your terms as clear as possible.


If you’re hit by a copycat, don’t let it weigh you down! Keep producing unique designs, monitor them and try to figure out the source of the design.  Send them a message directly or through your lawyer if they continue to steal your work. Let them know you’re willing to pursue legal action. In some cases, copycats are not worth suing because you might end up wasting money and time. For example, the Aba boys print pick off illustrations from the internet, print it on t-shirts and release at cheap prices.

I such cases, suing might not worth it because the art works are usually poorly printed on low quality T-shirts. Hence, the difference is clear! While it might be tempting to call them out, you may lose more and bring them free publicity when you fight with them.

On a final note, take the necessary steps to protect your designs, get professsional help and make sure you build a unique brand .Dealing with copycats is not an easy task, but know when to act, how to act and when to watch from a distance.

Having said all these, which of the 4-ways discussed above have you tried before or would you implement.

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