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The subtitle might make you believe the start of this log is gonna be a fairytale. Sike! Instead, this is quite adjacent. The affliction of copycatting done by big sneaker brands is far too prevalent. Years ago, in an age where every false move can be quickly spread by social media, I watched a design of mine replicate on the biggest platform without my permission. It was no surprise—sneaker brands have only historically grown by copying. It's an epidemic and today more prevalent than ever for major footwear companies getting away with blatantly ripping off designs from independent designers. Once a design hits social media, the fast-fashion machine can’t be stopped. It’s only a matter of time before there are multiple brands making copies while the original creator like myself almost always gets lost in the shuffle. I could have lamented about being copied by a huge brand. Large brands get away with stealing designs from smaller companies because fashion is not fully protected under American copyright law. The US copyright law positions American fashion as a manufacturing industry rather than a creative one. With these outdated legal doctrines still in place, sneakers in any category aren’t given nearly enough legal protection, even as sneaker designs have become increasingly prevalent. Unfortunately, the industry is frivolous, an area that doesn’t need protection. If every shoe design were to suddenly fall under copyright protection, big brands with large legal budgets would copyright as many designs as possible and constantly file lawsuits, creating a hostile environment that could force smaller designers out of the industry completely. So instead of starting an outrage on social media, it opened me up to really form a strategic plan and play chess. I started attending various popular curated conventional festivals for research. I’ve learned that traditional footwear development is out, or to say the least powered by big-branded names. No independent brand will triumph in that department because it's already been overtaken. The new and emerging trend is that of custom shoes—I would be remiss if I didn’t include the thriving influencers in this category that have been making waves in the customization world. The breakout of independent footwear customizers hauled a perception of pricey tags and catered only to the high-end clientele. Of course this is a gross misconception. Most of the moneymaking of the customizations are being powered over once again by the big brands like Nike ID, Adidas Miadidas, Custom Converse, Vans, Reebok and New Balance. But it seems like in this category, there is a fighting chance and a bit more wiggle room. The worldwide reach of social media and the common desire among customers everywhere to get customized, individual products has broadened the size and scale of the custom shoe market.
This is is where I come into play. While millennials are known to have a penchant for individuality, designing a product as per one’s specific requirement gives people a sense of being part of the process and that expression forms the core of their values—a voice. But I'm putting a major twist on that. The human foot hasn’t changed shape in close to a million years, and if we’re being practical, there are therefore only so many basic shapes a shoe can take to shield that foot from injury. I’ve become more interested in and extended my research for design and development literacy and re-innovating “appropriation.” How do I extrapolate it to the entire market? That’s easy: attrition. As long as there’s no full-on counterfeiter and ripping off a logo 1:1, it’s all just creative destruction in the end.