Knitwear is slow, imitations come fast

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If the knitting designer crochet bao sent her latest creation on Instagram last May, fans gushed over what they saw: a red and white cardigan with plaid sleeves, chunky accents and large strawberry patterns across the body. “Many people sent me a direct message asking for a pattern, but some people were also willing to pay for it,” Crochet Bao said.

If anyone is interested in the cardigan, they can purchase crochet patterns for $11 or a made-to-measure cardigan for $195 from her Etsy shop.

Or they can go to online clothing retailer Cider and buy a fake cardigan an almost identical design for $32 — which comes as no surprise to the full-time designer, who found out about the listing after a follower messaged her.

“It seems like every day a new design is taken or imitated and copied,” she said.

Fast fashion companies like Cider and Shein are regularly known for it tear-off designs from small makers. Usually there are very few consequences as most garments cannot be protected underneath American Copyright Laws.

This means if a small designer like Crochet Bao, who asked to be identified with the name of her online shop, has her design impersonated, all she can do is post about it online and hope that people will see that the design is actually made by you are from .

The problem is even more serious for knitwear designers, whose products have conquered the fashion world. Because many designers hand-sew their clothes, prices are usually high to reflect the quality and time of work. It took Crochet Bao three months to create her cardigan design – she made prototypes to make sure her instructions were sizing inclusive, made step-by-step videos for the pattern, and had several people test her design and her Give feedback. Every time someone orders a cardigan, it takes them 18 hours to hand crochet the entire piece.

“After all that work, it’s just crazy that someone would just take it and then sell it for an eighth of the price or less,” said the 25-year-old Etsy seller.

Companies rarely respond to claims of design copying. Emma Charlton, who runs an Etsy shop called AlaskaCrochetCo, found this out when she learned it was cider sell a sweater this looked similar to one she had been working on from a vintage pattern. She contacted the company several times and even went to the website and responded to comments on the store listing asking buyers to look at her original work. Cider has come forward and said she can make a copyright claim, but she knows she doesn’t technically have a claim to the pattern.

“I think my initial goal was to take it down, but then it became about just raising awareness that they’re not a good place to shop,” Charlton said.

Fast fashion knockoffs can mean the pieces these designers worked so hard to create no longer feel like unique, sustainable items that encourage slow, ethical fashion practices. Lydia Boltontextile designer who specializes in unique clothing made from repurposed materials, posted a picture of a jacket she felt couldn’t be reproduced because it used a patterned fabric no longer available in stores. Even when numerous people asked if they could buy the $164 jacket, she resisted customer demands to make more.

Now, these potential customers can buy a replica of the jacket at Cider.

“It’s a real shame because it makes this one terribly special jacket a little less special because now the whole world can have it on Cider for $28,” Bolton said.

That loss can be worse than the sales these YouTubers are missing out on. For Bolton, the cider jacket “won’t hurt my sales” because it only makes one-offs.

Crochet Bao says the different prices mean she’s reaching different buyers. “The people who shop at Cider aren’t the people I think would buy my items in the first place,” she said. “You’re most likely not going to buy a $250 cardigan at the same time.”

Some designers have had success removing these designs from other fast fashion companies, often after a social media post alleging design theft went viral. Eliza Hilding, a knitwear designer from SwedenShe posted an Instagram reel shows similarities between a sweater vest they did and one that appeared on Shein six weeks later. The video was viewed over a million times and shortly thereafter they received a DM from the company saying the vest had been taken off.

“They said that a third party was responsible and that they were sorry and that they respect every designer’s intellectual property,” Hilding said.

Though removing the design was great, Hilding said the comments that made her happiest were from people who said they didn’t want to shop at Shein anymore now that they knew the brand was stealing designs. For her, this is the real win: helping people move away from fast fashion and be more selective about where they shop.

The problem is, knitwear is expensive, fashion moves quickly, and these companies offer an acceptable product at a much lower price. “We’re all babies of a capitalist society, we see something bright and shiny, we’re taught to want it,” said Kara Harms, who reviews fast fashion on her blog mood.

On his website Cider claims that it reduces waste through its pre-order model, which produces inventory in smaller batches and controls their margins. This model, according to the website, helps the company achieve sustainability while keeping up with the latest trends. But Harms, who has attempted to verify that claim, says it’s not easy to find evidence that the company is as sustainable as it claims to be.

“You can talk all day about how the sweater feels and fits,” Harms said. “But where was it made? It’s really hard to know.” Cider has not responded to multiple requests for comment on this story.

In the knitwear community, the problem isn’t just big designers ripping off smaller ones. Sometimes designers see other knit designers passing off patterns as their own and even selling them for higher prices.

Alyssa Gomeza knit designer who makes cardigans and hats, says people can claim that her designs just follow trends, but when she sees a creator selling a design she created months ago under the same name, it’s obvious what happened.

“I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, but it definitely leaves a sour taste in my mouth,” she said.

If another YouTuber creates a YouTube tutorial for someone else’s design, or sells the same pattern under a different name, the lack of credit means fewer people are aware of the original designer’s products and name. When Charlton saw that someone had created a free YouTube tutorial describing her pattern, she felt it was even worse than when Shein took her design because people would use that video instead of buying her pattern.

“The least I will ask is that you mention the video description,” Charlton said. “I’d really appreciate it if they removed the video, but there’s usually nothing I can do about it if they decide not to.”

Ultimately, these designers know they can’t stop small businesses or large fast fashion companies from taking on designs. So you prefer to focus on helping people make informed decisions.

“Just be aware of what you’re consuming,” Crochet Bao said. “Be aware of where things are coming from. That doesn’t mean you have to shop small every time; It just means being aware of what and who you are buying from.”

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