In fashion, there’s always been a fine line between inspiration and copycat. Virgil Abloh, who has been accused of plagiarism over the course of his career, has famously called it the “3 percent rule”: modify an existing design by just 3 percent, and it’s considered something new.
Earlier this week, criticism was rampant of the fledgling Stan label, created by surfer and model Tristan Detwiler, citing its remarkable resemblance to the Bode collection. His fall line was inspired by the Bumann Quilters in California, a group in which he is now a member, and their lessons on how to repurpose antique quilts. He offered up a film featuring the group and showed a collection of jackets, pants and shorts designed from these upcycled materials.
The line, its choice of materials and its inspiration are eerily reminiscent of what Emily Bode has been creating from antique textiles for four years. But it’s not a rip-off, Detwiler stressed, simply his own take on reusing vintage fabrics. And he’s not alone: everyone from Greg Lauren to Raf Simons for Calvin Klein have used upcycled fabrics and quilts as inspiration for their collections over the years. And Detwiler’s spring collection was also similar, but didn’t seem to create the brouhaha of this one, which resulted in stories in both The New York Times and GQ. In addition, patchworking and colorblocking were evident in other collections shown last week, including Kuon and Ka Wa Key.
Even so, the similarities between Bode and Stan are remarkable. One source pointed out that Stan’s price point for its quilted coats are oddly specific and the same as Bode’s: $1,554; the pocket and button placement and general silhouette of Stan’s coats are nearly identical to Bode; the layout of Stan’s e-commerce site is the same as Bode’s and he also photographs all his pieces against an earthy wall on a hanger like Bode, and even much of the e-commerce copywriting is the same. Bode’s site reads: All wear, mending and idiosyncrasies are unique to the antique textile. Stan’s says: All idiosyncrasies, mending and wear are unique to the original textile.
But Detwiler begs to differ. Responding to a request for comment via email, he told WWD: “In 2019 I was working on a design project at USC, where I was inspired to create wearable art with the hopes that people could appreciate my work outside of the traditional gallery setting. This continues to be a major source of inspiration for my work. Stan will always be an expression of my personal experiences — my international surf adventures, my travels, and of course the Bumann Quilters of Olivenhain, Calif., a group of women whose intimate circle I’ve been fortunate enough to have been welcomed into with open arms. These ladies have shared techniques and textiles with me that have been passed down over the generations.”
He went on to say that “discovering rare and unique textiles with rich historical origin stories is what creatively spurs me on. I am aware of the comparisons that have been made between my brand and others that preceded me, in particular, Bode. I believe that these comparisons on face value are easy to draw given our use of similar raw materials.”
However, he said it was “never my intention to co-opt another brand’s aesthetic. I believe that my brand’s identity will always be rooted in the Southern California surf culture that I’m a product of. My hometown of San Diego is a coastal, barefoot mecca for surfers. The idea behind the first quilted jacket I made was inspired by a ritual of wrapping myself with quilts on chilly mornings on the beach.”
Detwiler said he has “the utmost respect for Bode, but feel that we are of different worlds.”
He said his collection will continue to be one-offs that he makes himself, and his use of vintage textiles will continue. “My love of quilts is not a passing fancy — my creative aim is to cherish each textile and honor its unique provenance. I request permission and the blessing from the curators and creators of the textiles. It is also important to me that I continue the sustainable and waste-less business model I committed to since day one.“
He said this aesthetic will continue beyond fall 2021 and he has no intention of creating “a radically new aesthetic each season. I feel that I have found my creative niche and want to explore ways of developing newness within this world.”
Emily Bode, founder of Bode, declined to comment on Stan and Detwiler.
Douglas Hand, a partner in the law firm of Hand Baldachin & Associates, and a specialist in the legalities of the fashion industry, said although there may be similarities between the two lines, there is no legal protection under existing intellectual property laws for either brand’s collections.
For a brand to be protected, it must fall into one of three categories, he explained. The first is a trademark, which is the brand name or a design feature such as the Christian Louboutin red soles, that are used over and over again by the same brand and come to represent its identity.
Then there is copyright protection, often used for music or art pieces, but not applicable to fashion, especially in this case, since both Bode and Stan are using upcycled fabrics created by others — and each is different.
The final option is to obtain a patent, which is generally used for the creation of technologies such as waterproofing, and neither of these brands would qualify under this category either.
“There’s no protection for these types of designs,” Hand said, “because they’re both inspired by others. I love what Bode does, her use of upcycled fabrics creates a great bohemian vibe. And I don’t think Stan nefariously said, ‘Look at how well Bode does, I’ll just do the same thing.’” Like Detwiler, Hand said he grew up in Southern California, and wrapping yourself in a quilt on the beach before surfing on a cold morning was just part of the culture.
Add to that the fact that the two brands’ designs — the work or chore coat or the wide-leg trousers — are men’s wear staples, “and none are protected.”
Hand summed it up this way: “What would be a shame is if someone would feel prohibited from creating upcycled fashion because others were doing it longer.”