It’s time to open up this can of worms…. Creativity is the linchpin of success when you are a milliner but the other ‘C’ word, COPYING, intentional or not, is threatening the passion and livelihood of some of Australia’s most well-known artists.

We contacted several milliners and we were pleased to hear their support of this article. Although they would not like to formally comment we can tell you that it’s now to the point where taking legal action is making a huge dent in their profits and some feel like the only option is to give up.

With the 2016 Spring Racing Carnival approaching milliners Australia wide are tucked away in their workrooms doing what they love. They are busily sewing, blocking, wiring, steaming and channelling their creativity into unique works of art.

Renowned and award winning Australian milliner Jill Humphries has taken drastic action and decided to shut down her Facebook account today to protect her world of wearable art. Out of frustration Jill recently named and shamed a potential ‘copy-cat’ who commented to someone that she could re-make one of her designs.

“Really pisses me off when someone comments on my page that they are happy to copy my work. What an uncreative and unimaginative person (as well as disrespectful). So ‘name removed’ you have been called out so other milliners can keep an eye on other things you might like to copy…”

But today marks tipping point for Jill as she takes a stand and says enough is enough! She will continue to post on Instagram but in order to protect her innovative creations she will no longer be sharing her work on Facebook.

Messages of support have flooded in across social media groups and pages…

Penny Evans You’re my favourite page! But totally understand. The cheap copies never do your beautiful work justice. Will just have to keep dreaming of owning more of your pieces so I can stare at them at home!
Rebecca Gauci Maurici Oh Jill! People suck sometimes! I’m so proud to own 2 of your beautiful pieces and wish I could own a hundred more! I love seeing your creations so will be sad not to have my newsfeed filled with your talent (but completely understand why! ). All the best xxx
Em Scodellaro You can’t copy quality. You are the original & the best xoxo
Marnie Lewis Downing It’s so sad it’s come to this Jill. I always look forward to seeing your gorgeous ORIGINAL designs in my news feed. xxx
Claire Hahn I am so sorry Jill Humphries. Your innovation and technique is an inspiration to so many of us x
Chantelle Westlake The “milliners” who copy and then sell their work at low prices, do not help the industry. They fuel the debate that milliners are expensive, not educating potential clients of the work that goes into creating a piece of true millinery! I read Jill’s post this morning and ensured I wasn’t following the person/account in this most recent copying event. It’s a small protest!

Fellow milliners have rallied with comments and Facebook posts in support of Jill because they too feel that copying needs to stop! Fast Fashion is not what millinery is about and items that are handmade should be protected. Being able to share your passion with the world makes social media the perfect platform to get your work out there in the public eye. It also makes it too easy for others to take ‘inspiration’ too far and create imitations.

Another contributing factor is that the milliners are so open to sharing their techniques with others. Milliners all learn from the same pool of tutors so skills are bound to cross over. There are also limited block makers in Australia so shapes and designs will always have some kind of similarity to them. We have spoken to one of the milliner’s who have been accused of copying Jill’s designs and she, in fact, doesn’t even follow her on any social media. She has never seen the headpiece in question and so please give some consideration to how she is feeling at the moment. She is a small business owner trying to make a living doing what she loves and her claims, that she most definitely did not copy, are valid and should be heard.

 

Recently D.E. Millinery vented their frustration through social media that they found possible imitations of their designs. Danica’s devoted fans are right behind her and supporting the claims that these designs are too close for comfort to her innovative lazer cut headpieces, which she has been making for many years.

Is it a coincidence that these designs look so similar? That is not for us to decide. Our aim is to encourage you, the public, to be aware of what you are buying and who you are buying it from. Get your millinery from the original designer. There is no bigger insult than asking a milliner to remake a piece that was originally made by someone else.

Let’s talk lace crowns. Here is an image of Nadia Bartel (then Coppolino) in 2013 wearing the infamous ‘Nadia Cat Ears’ made by Lisa from Lady of Leisure Millinery.

 

This lace crown design below popped up in 2015 on Jen Hawkins for Myer’s Millinery Campaign featuring. It is not a Lady of Leisure creation.

 

This style below, not by Lady of Leisure Millinery, has recently been released for spring and is stocked online and in many boutiques across Australia.

Confused??? We are too because the similarities between these pieces is uncanny. Using a different arrangement or type of lace would ensure there was no mistaking the other version for the items made by hand from Lady of Leisure Millinery.

 

Rebecca Hanley, from Hanley Hats, has also put her plea out on a Facebook group in recent weeks to remind other milliners to respect each other and what they do.

Rebecca makes a valid point, that often it is unintentional, when designs are so similar. Milliners have similar skills and knowledge of processes and sometimes ideas do come to life without seeing the original design. You can’t reinvent the wheel. This is the grey area in the fashion industry and is the battle that many milliners face when they pluck up enough courage to voice their concerns.

 

A milliner needs proof that a design is a copy. The Australian Copyright Council documents state…

“For copyright infringement to occur, there must be not only a similarity between the two works but also some evidence that the similarity results from copying, either directly or indirectly.”

The key word there being EVIDENCE that someone copied you… this would near be impossible to prove. It makes taking legal action to protect yourself a waste of time and money.

 

Viktoria Novak, the creator of these beautiful crowns, has been battling imitations for 10 years. There are many copies out on the market at the moment that are undercutting her business because they are cheaper to purchase. Below are some of her original designs.

Below are some designs available online that have not been created by Viktoria. They may not be direct copies and the similarities could be unintentional but as a milliner you should be aware of what others are creating.

Being the first person to come up with a new trend is no easy feat. Hours of sketching and testing of new ideas keeps those high profile milliners at the forefront of fashion. Milliners are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Unless they have the evidence to call out copies they sit back powerless to do anything about it. Many milliners are aware of imitations, and the creators, but they prefer not to ‘name and shame’. If we don’t call for a stop to it then who will?

The solution is simple. It’s time to stop. Think. And start respecting each other and the craft of millinery. Stick to your game, keep inventing and you will stay ahead of the pack and leave the copy cats in your wake!

 


Feature Image: Jill and Jack Millinery