I spend a lot of time in shops, at markets and on websites for my job which involves sourcing interesting objects, interviewing intriguing people and researching hot topics and I am constantly amazed by the creativity displayed by South Africans in general and Durbanites specifically.
People come up with such clever, innovative ideas which are, in differing combinations, practical, pretty or downright ingenious. Many of them tap into the general zeitgeist or a particular trend and so some similarity in the items being produced in a particular time and place is to be expected. The thing I find truly incredible, though, is how many ‘designers’ shamelessly copy the creations of others and try to pass the idea off as their own. We live in a world where most people feel nothing to carry a fake Louis Vuitton or Gucci handbag, citing the excuse that no-one would ever think it was real as they wouldn’t spend the tens of thousands of rands required to purchase the real McCoy and besides, it doesn’t really look authentic. There was an extensive debate around this issue over the World Cup period when soccer shirts were being sold for a fraction of the legitimate price on street corners all over South Africa and a little part of me couldn’t help but think ‘good on you little man’ when it was a big Chinese producer being stung, despite my higher instincts shouting out that counterfeiting is inherently wrong.
I feel very differently, passionately so in fact, when it is people I know and respect who are being ripped off. I am acutely aware of the hypocrisy of this statement, by the way, but I am not prepared to be quiet on account of the fact that I am not perfect myself. My own ethical grey areas aside, it makes me furious to come across something that so closely resembles the design and production of another object that those who are not in the know would never spot the difference. It is especially upsetting when the original object was made by a single person or small group of people who are simply trying to make a decent living. If you are passing yourself off as a creative or a designer, surely you want to create or design something of which you can be proud, something which is your own brainchild? The only conclusion I can come to is that people who steal the ideas of others in this way have something in common with every other thief alive – monetary greed.
I don’t often use my blog as my personal Hyde Park Corner and I will step down from my soapbox now, hoping to have saved at least one sale for a talented, authentic creative.