Sunday, September 2, 2012

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

I'm not sure when lazy became synonymous with sincerity but having people compliment your original ideas and designs only to attempt to replicate them is all part of the territory and everyone creative faces it at some point.  It really does feel terrible and frustrating and it's hard not to get angry but there's nothing much that can be done about it.  You can't copyright an idea or a technique and you can't sell your work and hide your ideas away at the same time.  It seems to be the way of the world and even we tiny businesses have to face it.  This must be my week because I've had one woman come right out and ask me if I would mind if she copied a design stitch by stitch and one of my Facebook followers has also started to try to do the same type of work.  Luckily for me both of them are copying hat styles that are just a little side line for me and not my sweater designs. Once I get over my initial hissy fit and calm down the first thing that I try to do is feel sorry for them.  It's sad to think that someone wants to be an artisan so badly that they would appropriate someone else's ideas to make up for their lack of creativity and ability to create anything original and I'd rather have someone copy me than have to feel that void in my life.  They'll never know the joy of that creative spark or feel the confidence that comes from knowing that what you make reflects who you are and how you see the world.  Somehow I doubt that the clink of the coins in their pocket measures up to that.  I feel better about myself if I can pity them instead of feeling contempt for their lack of integrity.

 The next thing that I usually feel is a cold determination to create even more complicated designs so that they at least have to struggle a bit to rip off my idea.  It's not much consolation but it helps a bit to imagine the tangled mess that they're probably making as they attempt to recreate something very colorful. Another thing that's good to remember is that there is a huge difference between a real friend and the occasional online "friend" that really isn't one.  Real friends are the people who you trust but a few of  your Facebook followers are likely to be selling similar items and are just scoping out your work.  I try not to take it too personally, I don't say anything to them or pitch a fit and I limit myself to nasty thoughts and giving their avatar the evil eye.  I also think really mean things about how amateurish and sloppy their results look to me.  It's a little bit of fun to "Like" their Facebook posts about it just so that they know that you've seen what they've done but chances are that they know no shame in the first place or they would have stopped themselves from doing it.  They might even be ditzy enough to think that it was a compliment.

 Even though there is nothing that any of us can do to protect ourselves against idea and design bottom feeders there are a few common sense precautions that will at least help in keeping them a few steps behind you.  Keep your ideas to yourself for as long as possible so that you can at least get the item completed before they come out with the imitation.  Don't share your great suppliers or tell anyone where you get unique materials and control your desire to help novices by showing them how to do more advanced work if they also sell their products.  If you spend a lot of time doing research it isn't always necessary to share your findings with the world.  Let them do their own work.  Don't tell the competition where you advertise and never get caught up in a race to the bottom of the pricing range.  If the market gets flooded with cheap imitations that you can't compete with then just accept it and move on.  Your best asset is your creativity and ability to take your work to the next step so use it to leave them in the dust with something new.

 If necessary find another outlet such as local brick and mortar shops to take your work on consignment at first and charge what the items are worth. You can also find a niche product that's harder and more expensive to replicate.  For example, lots and lots of people sell handmade sweaters but very few of them make plus sizes, one of a kind designs or invest in high-end materials.  I can't compete for bargain shoppers looking for acrylics but I'm not trying to.  My customers are too smart to pay handmade prices for something that they can find in any chain store for far less money.  They (and I) go to chain stores for common sense everyday purchases and then fill in their wardrobes with a few high quality pieces.  I want people to buy my work because they want to express their individual style and indulge themselves a bit and not because I have the lowest prices in town or because they want to look like everyone else in the latest trends.

 In the end all you can really do is suck it up, throw some rocks at a tree until you feel better and then get back to work on more original designs.  At least what I do is too complicated to be showing up as imports on Alibaba that can be bought by the thousands for pennies a piece and that's some consolation!  

 Please come by and visit me on my Mirabilis Fashions Facebook Page, at Plus Size Sweaters by Mirabilis Fashions or on Plus Size Sweaters by Mirabilis Fashions on Google+.

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