Post-Oscars, the Dress Knock-Off Crowd Gets Busy

. . and the debate over copies crops up again

"Copying ought to be under the control of the designer," she says in her calm, sweet voice. "What happens is heartbreaking: Young designers at trade shows get knocked off by the big companies all the time, and no one ever knows it was their design. In many countries, in Japan and in Europe, designers are protected legally. That way, it's up to the designer to decide: 'Maybe I'll do a commercial deal with a place like Target'—or I might decide, 'I did that Oscar dress as a one-off, so, OK, take it, copy it, do whatever you want with it.' It's not like a painting—it's a commercial garment. For the designer, it's a business decision, but it's also an artistic and a creative decision."

The discussion turns to my mythical little girl, spending her hard-earned pennies on fake Marc Jacobs at H&M, and here, I frankly find the otherwise hard-boiled Scafidi's suggestions a little dreamy. She thinks my girl should bury herself in the vintage shop (what, like Anna Sui?) or, better yet, go to a fabric store (do these still exist?), stock up on red material, and learn to sew. After all, Scafidi offers, "That little girl might be a designer herself one day." (Well, sure, she might be. Or she might be a skilled copyist, employed by the 2020 version of Forever 21.)

Jessica Alba, ready for her close-up to be copied
Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images
Jessica Alba, ready for her close-up to be copied

Let's face it, when the prom rolls around, you won't find most Miley Cyrus wannabes holed up like Bertha the sewing-machine girl. They'll be cruising the local mall looking for ABS feathered frocks and Faviana Atonement gowns. Scafidi is more than aware of this reality. Right after our conversation, she e-mails me, tarter in print than she was in person: "If you speak to Allen Schwartz again, please tell him from me that if he were really Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, he wouldn't take such a big cut along the way."

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