Friday, December 18, 2020

The Big Frocking Replica Debate Explained

Fake, imitation, counterfeit or replica are all synonyms for an item that is not the real thing.

Lolita is a niche fashion that has a lot of small companies, private indie designers, love for quality and special attention to small details. As such, replica items are not well received in the lolita community and there have been discussions and debate about buying and owning them since the beginning of the fashion.

Why not buy a replica item?

Buying a replica is theft.

Art / prints used on lolita items are copyrighted and printing their art for commercial purposes is illegal.

It hurts the designer / company that created the product and kills the fashion we love.

When a company produces a lolita item, it requires a lot of investment (paying the designer, putting together the sewing pattern, costs of maintaining a store / website, etc.) they need to generate a certain profit to continue to exist. Once people buy a replica product, the money does not go to whoever worked on the real product. There have been cases of stores and designers that collapsed and disappeared due to replicas.

The garment you will receive will not be as in the pictures, or in the quality of the original item.

Usually companies that create replica items attract buyers with the help of the product's print and do not invest in the quality of the product itself. Therefore you will not get a product of the same quality as the original and in a fashion like lolita which emphasizes quality, it is a very important thing.

Why do people still buy replicas?

Here are some common reasons:

The original item can no longer be bought.

Usually original items are produced in limited editions and a certain number of items, so if the item you want is no longer in the store you probably will not be able to buy the item first hand. Despite this- there is an amazing and very active second hand market for lolita clothes! There is no bad stigma in buying second-hand lolita clothes, on the contrary - it is accepted and very common. And you can also find cheaper things than buying directly from the brand (And everyone loves getting a good deal!) There have also been cases where the brand sees that a particular item is very popular, and decides to re-release the item.

The original item is too expensive for me.

As mentioned above, creating an original item costs a lot of money, and the brands need a profit to continue producing more items. Buying a replica may sound like a good idea, but it actually kills the fashion and brand you love. If you really like the item, invest in it so that there are more items you will love in the future!

The original item is not my size.

Lolita fashion started in Japan, where the average sizes are usually smaller than the sizes in the West, but over time most brands realized that they also sell to audiences outside of Japan and increased their sizing accordingly. Still, sometimes there are items that just won’t be your size, but that's still not a good reason to support replicas. You can send a respectful message to the brand and show that there is a demand for larger sizes, buy the original item and take it to the seamstress to change the sizes, or contact private designers who can create a similar custom lolita item so you can get a special original fitted item for you!

I'm still not 100% sure I want to wear lolita fashion and just want to experiment.

Sometimes original items from bigger lolita brands seem expensive for beginners, but remember that an original item usually also retains a certain value. So if you decide that lolita fashion is not for you, you can sell the original item and recoup some of the investment. Plus, you can always start with a second-hand item, or an item in a similar style from another brand that is cheaper. 

Remember that you do not have to buy well-known Japanese burando to wear a lolita and no community will laugh at you for not wearing a dress from a "well-known brand" as long as you are well-dressed and in accordance with the lolita fashion rules.

Why would a big brand care if I buy a replica?

As mentioned, brands need to make a profit to continue to exist. Lolita brands, even the largest and most well-known, are still small boutiques that appeal to the field of niche fashion, which does not bring in large sums like the big companies we are used to from mainstream fast fashion. So if you love lolita fashion it's important to support them!

It can be a bit tricky spotting a replica when just starting out. Here are some tips to help you avoid them.

How to spot a replica product:

  • The store does not write the brand name that designed the item

  • There is a brand name on the item that does not match the store name

  • The store / brand that sells the item is known as a store that sells replicas.

Brands sites known for selling replicas:

Oo jia, Dream of Lolita, Jill Punk x Loli, Milanoo

Milanoo has several different stores and you can find a list of them here

  • The photos of the item have been stolen from another site.

If you see items with a lot of photos in different styles there is a chance that the photo was stolen from another site. Most often the brand has several house models and their own aesthetics for photography. A good way to check the source of an image is to do a Google reverse image search of it. You can save the image locally to your computer and run it in Google's search engine to see if the site where you saw it is indeed the original site that offered the item for sale.

  • The name of the product is generic, and looks like a combination of random words in order for it to appear in the search engine. (E.g. "Strawberry Lolita Dress Harajuku Kawaii Cosplay"), or the use of general anime and Japanese culture keywords, rather than keywords commonly used in the lolita community (such as "anime girl", "kawaii", as opposed to use of "JSK").

  • The appearance of the item is different from the original item (different color, different lace, small details that are missing…)

  • On Taobao and other Chinese language websites they'll sometimes use the "Mountain" character 山 as an euphemism for replicas.

  • The price is suspiciously low. Sometimes you can find an amazing deal on lolita items, but remember that if something is too good to be true it most likely isn’t.

Still not sure you are buying an original item? You can always ask your community or Facebook groups!

Examples of the sale of replica items:

As written in the description the dress is from Jill Punk x Loli and it is a replica of Toy Fantasy from Angelic Pretty. In addition, one can see the name of the original brand in the print of the dress, and that it is not the store advertised as the item source.

In this store they used a generic name and did not write the brand name in the description. The original dress is A Full Moon Night by Haenuli. The price is also suspiciously low for an OP.

An example of a fake item from Dream of Lolita (Right) compared to the original Wonder Cookie by Angelic Pretty (Left)

Is an item still a replica even when it has no print?

There are many items in Lolita that are without art / print, but are still very much associated with a particular brand. Such items are considered "iconic design" and a design that is exactly the same is a replica even without art / print.

Comparison of an original iconic item from the brand Mary Magdalene (right) and the cheap imitation (left) credit to 20dollarlolita.

On the other hand, there are items that are more generic (like a star-shaped bag or shoes with ribbons.) That are not identified with a particular brand and are not counterfeit as long as the item does not have a brand name that is not the one that produces the item.

The difference between imitation and inspiration:

Sometimes designers think of a similar idea or theme for an item. As long as there is some difference between the items they are not a replica.

Some brands are known for taking inspiration from items from different brands, but as long as it is not exactly the same and there are design changes it is not a replica. The buyer can decide which item they prefer.

Wait, but I saw the same print on original products from different brands?

Sometimes brands (even the largest ones) buy a fabric that has been pre-printed by the fabric manufacturer and already comes with a certain print, and at the same time another brand may also decide to use the same type of fabric for a different garment. In both cases both items will be an original product that happens to use the same type of fabric. This is called a “Commercially Available Fabric” and sometimes you can also buy it privately for your own creations!

But how do I support the brand when I only buy second hand?

Compared to replica items when buying an original item, even second hand, the money from the initial purchase goes to the brand that designed the garment and not to the company that stole the design.

In addition, when buying second hand there is a possibility that the seller will use the money to buy more original brand items. Buying an original item also gives you an opportunity to see their quality for yourself, and perhaps as a result you will decide to buy from the brand directly in the future.

The store I want to buy from has both original and replica items. Should I buy from them?

My recommendation - no. Although you are buying an original product, you also support a store that sells replicas. Usually in such cases it is possible to buy the original item from another source and not support replicas.

There are also stores that sold replicas in the past but today only sell original items such as Fan + Friend. In these cases, there is no moral problem to buy from them.

But I've bought a replica item in the past, what should I do with it?

Just acknowledge that you have already made the mistake. I hope that with the help of this guide you will learn and next time you will not buy a replica :)

In my personal opinion it is better not to wear the replica for lolita meet-ups or events, and especially not lie that the item is not replica, because it is something that can be easily identified through a skilled enough eye.

You can use fabric to create other creations (pillows, clothes for dolls…) but in the end it is still your own garment and you can use it as you see fit.

May your petticoats always be fluffy,

Milk Tea

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