I have been asked before, on both my Tumblr and Formspring, what I think about replicas, and generally my answer has been something along the lines of "You can do whatever you want to do, but I am not a fan of them", but because of the hot issue around the replica debate, I tended to shy away from elaborating on why I am not a fan of replicas. However, in recent months, especially after the ban EGL placed on discussing and selling replicas, I have been a little bit more vocal about my opinions on the matter.
I'd like to start this post by mentioning that I didn't always feel this way about replicas, there was a time when replicas first started to really be made that I didn't mind them and thought they were a good idea for people to sort of "test drive" styles, or for those "I like it, but I don't $300 like it" pieces. However, at this time there were a very small handful of replicas and very few people owned them. In short, it simply wasn't a big deal. Fast forward to now and replicas are a huge deal. Replicas are no longer just being made of long-sold-out prints or considered just another option, but groups for preordering replicas are being made while the original is still in reserve. People are buying originals with the intent to send to replica makers so that they can then produce dozens of replicas on-demand. Replicas are no longer just another option, but are often times considered the only other option besides brand. After the replica ban went down on EGL, so many people started asking "But what am I supposed to wear?!" and I was just flabbergast at that. Simply put, replicas had become such a huge part of the Lolita community that many people simply didn't know that there was anything other there besides brand and replicas. So think of this post as a sort of continuation of the last post about misconceptions that Lolitas have about other Lolitas, only this is about the 10 major misconceptions people tend to have about replicas and their impact on Lolita.
Oh, Kamikaze Girls, how do you keep being relevant?
1) I wear replicas because brands don't ______!Let's just stop before we even get to that blank! If your main reason for wearing replicas is because of something brands don't do, you're missing one of the most important things that Lolitas have been proclaiming for over a decade now, and that is: you don't have to wear brand to be a Lolita! There are a variety of other places to buy original Lolita pieces, as well as the ever present option to make them yourself. There are dozens of indie brands from all over the world, "budget" brands that make high quality Lolita, and seamstresses who specialize in Lolita, all who are willing to cater to a variety of different styles, sizes, and budgets! I couldn't possibly name all of them in this post, but check out the tumblr F Yeah Offbrand for some gorgeous non-brand Lolita shops.
The funny part about people who proclaim that they buy replicas because brands don't do X, is that replicas are a relatively recent thing to pop up within the fashion, and it's absurd to claim that prior to this current replica trend Lolitas only wore brand! However, regardless of this very major loophole in the pro-replica argument, nearly every argument for replicas still start out with "Well, brands don't..."
4) Brands don't care or they would be more active trying to stop replicas!Sometimes the size issue falls under this topic, as many people feel that brand's don't care about replicas because brands do not release more plus sized pieces. This, as mentioned above, is simply untrue and it's plain to see that over the years brands have done all they can to offer a variety of sizes. Many people also feel that brands don't care because they don't see brands calling out replicas all the time, but once again, this is also simply untrue. Generally, Japanese businesses are known for having a sort of "ignore it and it will go away" attitude about things they don't like, replicas being one of these things.
However, despite that, several brands have been outspoken about replicas in the past! Angelic Pretty and Baby both ban replicas from their tea parties and events, and Mary Magdalene and Innocent World have actually both released statements speaking out on replicas. Angelic Pretty, arguably the brand that is most often replicated, was even the brand that contacted EGL in the first place and asked that they disallow the sale and discussion of replicas. It's clear that brands know about, and care that replicas of their products exist; it's honestly hard to imagine a designer that wouldn't care! The sad fact of the matter is that, because all of the replica-producing companies are in China, there is very little they can do to stop them besides letting people know that they do not approve.
5) It doesn't hurt brands, because ______.There are a lot of things that can go in that blank, the two largest being "brands make a lot of money and it doesn't affect them" and "people who buy replicas don't buy brand, for whatever reason, so brands aren't losing customers". Once again, both of these ideas are simply incorrect, or gross over simplifications. Lolita brands are not major corporations. They are relatively small businesses that release a relatively small number of dresses worldwide. There aren't huge offices somewhere filled with a team of people who decide what the next print will be, and then a whole different team to help design it, most brands have a small handful of designers who are often very active in several aspects of the brand.
The notion that people who buy from replica companies will never buy from brands is also simply not true, as many Lolitas who own replicas will also own brand pieces. Even if they are not necessarily buying from brands on a regular basis because of size or budget, there are still a number of different places to buy original pieces from, and ultimately, that's who replicas are going to hurt most, the smaller indie brands who are releasing some amazing and quality pieces that are going virtually unnoticed, because instead of buying from them, people are content to buy a cheap knockoff.
6) But I don't even like brands, so I just don't care.This is by far the weirdest excuse I've heard, and I've heard it a number of times! If you legitimately do not like something... why are you wearing it? I feel like this would be the same as walking around in a band tee for a band that you actually hate, just because you like the picture on it. If you don't like it, there are tons of different options out there!
I'm even confused by the idea of a Lolita that dislikes Lolita brands. Being a Lolita does not mean you're obligated to love everything brands release, or obsess over them, or even be very enthusiastic about them, but as a Lolita, you should probably be aware that what we consider Lolita is a direct result of all that Lolita brands have done, from their clothing designs to cultivating a community around the fashion. Simply put, without the brands, we wouldn't have Lolita. I almost sort of feel that this "I hate brands! What have they ever done for me!" attitude is a feigned one, some sort of rebellion that considers "brand" a bad word (sort of that whole "I hate the mall! Except for Hot Topic..." attitude that's prevalent in a lot of young rebels) or a jumping-the-gun bristling at the fact that, for whatever reason, they think they can't have what the brand offers.
7) But replicas will help because it will means brands are seeing why they're losing business and change for the better!Not at all! I've seen a number of reasons why replicas are supposedly "good for brands", ranging from it means they will know that prints need to be re-released, prices will drop to compete with their own replicas, and brands will realize that they need to make more of X size or style. But the simple truth is that if replicas take business away from brands the only change brands will make is they will have to raise their prices and cut back on things like overseas stores and events to make up for lost business before simply going out of business.
It's just completely ridiculous to claim that just because someone might commit one crime, no matter how minor (I've seen people compare replicas to jaywalking before!), they should be ok with committing others, this is besides the fact that downloading movies/magazines/music isn't even remotely similar to what's going on with replicas. A more accurate comparison would be not to compare buying replicas to pirating, but to buying low quality cam-ripped bootleg copies of new movies, only instead of big Hollywood blockbusters they're bootlegs of independent movies and student films.
On the other side of the argument you have the people saying that because replicas are sort of similar to the idea of the trickle-down theory within fashion, they should be acceptable. However, it's absolutely not a crime to be inspired by something and to create your own version, it's in poor taste but still legal to be a little too inspired to the point of simply copying non-print/logo designs, and it's still completely illegal to take someone else's art and another companies logo and to slap them on your own products and sell them. It's true that many of the cheaper clothes you can pick up in mainstream clothing stores are inspired by runway high fashions, but when one brand actually go out of the way to directly steal other designer's prints and logos, you better believe that people call them out on it! There are a number of blogs out there that are dedicated on calling out mainstream shops for copying, you can check out You Thought We Wouldn't Notice for callouts that range from shady inspiration to illegally using other designers prints and logos.
9) But if I don't own a brand print, I won't be considered a real Lolita!I rarely see this in so many words, but it's an idea that is often lurking just beneath the surface of so many arguments for replicas, especially those that are worded in a way to imply that because brands do not cater to someone's particular budget or size, people who do not approve of replicas are saying that people in that size/budget are not allowed to wear Lolita, period. This is another completely ridiculous excuse for owning replicas, and it is such a shallow idea of what Lolita is! Not only is Lolita more than just brands, it is more than just popular brand prints. If you look for options within your budget and price range (and, surprise! there's a good chance you can find them even within brand) you're still going to find countless options, that are all totally accepted as being a part of Lolita.
10) But I want it!Finally, an excuse to buy replicas that isn't hidden under layer-upon-layer of lies and willful ignorance! I applaud you for for being honest, however, it's still not really a good reason. Just because you want something, even if you really want it, is no real reason to support replicas when there are so many other, legal, places to buy Lolita from that you will probably love just as much. There are tons of Lolita pieces I want but can't have, but honestly, I just get over it. Just because I like something doesn't mean I'm entitled to own it.
If you find yourself only loving big name brand prints, maybe you should take a moment to think about what it is you love about them over the countless original designs produced by indie brands.
Nowadays, we are lucky enough to have a vast amount of indie shops that carter to a huge range of sizes, prices, and styles, however, so many Lolitas aren't willing to give these options a second thought, because they're too concerned with owning replicas of brand prints.
Ultimately, this trend towards replicas can do no good within the Lolita community. Instead of a paradise where Lolitas can have whatever they want, as many of these replica shops claim to want to create, what is actually happening is that creativity is going stagnant in favor of owning a cheap knockoff of a print. Instead of supporting indie brands created by Lolitas, for Lolitas, we're concerned about getting cheap replicas of brand prints that are still in reserve. Instead of buying secondhand goods within the Lolita community we're sending money to people only interested in making a buck. Instead of putting emphasis on quality, we're saying the quality isn't as important as the print being accurate and crisp. Instead of supporting the brands that had such a huge part in inventing the fashion we love, we're just ripping them off.
You're not any less of a Lolita if you happen to wear replicas, and I am not here to tell you how to spend your money, but it's hard to deny that by supporting replicas, you're supporting a practice that is actively harmful, in both blatant and subtle ways, to the Lolita fashion and community. To consider yourself pro-replica is to support a practice that is, frankly, anti-Lolita.