Coincidence or Copy: Why Hawai'i Swimwear Brands Look Like They Copy Eachother
In the vibrant world of Hawai'i designed swimwear and fashion, a peculiar pattern occasionally emerges. Similar hues, analogous patterns, and even comparable names weave through the fabric of distinct brands. It can leave one pondering, are these genuine coincidences or a subtle form of mimicry? Let's unravel the intricacies that underlie this seeming synchronicity in the realm of our island fashion. In this blog post, we use testimonials from actual customers & their names have been changed for their privacy.
Hues and Tints:
One undeniable element influencing this intriguing phenomenon is the artistic canvas every Hawaiian & Hawai'i based designer draws from—nature itself. These colors, often a foundational choice for any designer, play a significant role. The hues of Hawai'i are embedded in the petals of its flowers, the depths of its oceans, and the lushness of its jungles. Therefore, it's no surprise that designers may, independently, gravitate towards resembling shades. The island's vibrant surroundings paint a palette that's undeniable, influencing designers collectively.
Pantone Colors and Palette Play:
A fascinating aspect of the synchronicity in Hawai'i swimwear is the influence of Pantone colors. Designers are well aware of the universal impact of these tones. Each year, the Pantone Color Institute releases its Color of the Year, a selection that reverberates across industries. In Hawai'i, where nature's hues are in abundance, designers align their creations with these recognized tones. From the tranquility of blues resembling the Pacific Ocean to the vibrant greens akin to lush tropical foliage, the Pantone palette provides a common language for artists to resonate with global aesthetics.
(example: pantone 2023 color viva magenta)
(viva magenta as seen in Tai Swim Co's Hau flower "Haena" print, 2023 release)
Native Roots and Name Games:
Hawai'i is a place where culture intertwines with creativity. Many designers are inspired by the rich tapestry of native plants and their Hawaiian names. This, too, contributes to apparent similarities in naming and color choices. There's a unique resonance in wearing designs that echo the beauty of the islands, with names rooted in Hawaiian language. Hence, the resemblance, sometimes coincidental, arises from a shared love for the essence of Hawai'i.
While it might seem like designs are hastily replicated in the world of Hawai'i swimwear, an understanding of the industry's intricate workings unveils a different truth.
Designs don't simply manifest overnight as a response to a competitor's release. Instead, most swimwear designers, including those in Hawai'i, operate on a meticulously planned merchandising schedule with release dates charted years in advance.
For instance, in 2023, Tai from Tai Swim Co has her prints lined up until 2027. Therefore, if similar prints emerge within weeks of each other, it's a testament to the planned, intricate workings of the industry rather than a mere copycat scenario. Designers invest time in ideation, creating samples, manufacturing, and planning releases, contributing to the synchronicity in the fashion world. However, if a design remarkably similar to another emerges after a significant time gap, one can question the authenticity, suggesting possible replication instead of natural inspiration.
But honestly, imagine having the time to look up what your competitor did five years ago. And then re-doing it? When it's already been done? That doesn't make any sense.
"Nobody wants to see the same print with two colors changed a year later." - Kylie. However, this it not necessarily accurate to say everyone feels this way. When Tai was growing up between the Big Island & Kaua'i, her favorite designers would draw one hibiscus, & keep repeating it to death (every season in every color of the rainbow) until it was almost boring. It wasn't creative. And yet, every single person on the beach was wearing it & the prints sold out every time. Tai was not immune to the craze either, because she was one of the people who would help them sell out. Maybe it was just due to a lack of options back then. Hundreds of dollars per piece for a blue hibiscus print that just had a sister print release in red the year before. "Girl, we eat it up. The same flower with two colors changed. I don't know why I like it" - Maddy
"It's like you've cracked the code to what local girls like, we just wanna wear pua" - Deidre
At Tai Swim Co, we believe in producing 100% completely original hand-drawn prints, taking pictures of all our own flowers, tracing them organically, & arranging them in ways that haven't been done before. We don't repeat or restock prints, leaving each drawing as its own original art piece, frozen in time but never dated. Read more about our process on our latest summer drop here.
Navigating the Unseen Threads:
To the casual observer, it might seem like new designs appear out of thin air, mirroring each other's essence. However, delving deeper reveals a fascinating world of meticulous planning, creativity, and coordination. This foresight ensures a smooth production process, accounting for design ideation, material sourcing, sample creation, and manufacturing. When two brands launch similar prints, it's often not a hurried attempt to replicate. Rather, it's a convergence of well-planned schedules and a shared love for Hawai'i's natural beauty.
EXAMPLES OF COINCIDENCES IN THE HAWAI'I DESIGNER WORLD:
(Tai Swim "Hanalei" print, released December 2020, source: Tai Swim Co Instagram)
(Benoa Swim "Hanalei" print, released January 2022, source: Poshmark)
(Acacia Swimwear "Black Elephant" print, released 2015, source: Poshmark)
For instance, if two brands release a print with the same flower within months of each other, it's a testament to the harmonious resonance designers have with their surroundings and each other, showcasing the unity in celebrating the rich tapestry of Hawai'i's floral heritage.
So, while coincidences do happen, they are more a reflection of shared inspiration and meticulous planning than an attempt to imitate.
(Acacia Swimwear "Hilo" print, released Resort 2023, source: Poshmark)
(Tai Swim "Hilo" print, released Spring 2023, source: Tai Swim Co)
While all beautiful prints share the same name or similar design, they are inspired by different features of their nameplace area. For example, Hanalei, on Kaua'i's north shore is full of electric blue water, vibrant bright florals & endless fields of kalo. Both prints are a testament to how a designer can pay homage to a piece of their home in entirely different ways. Another example is the two depictions of "Hilo". While the print name is the same, the release date being within days of each other is a huge coincidence & testament to how Hawai'i designers can be inspired by the same things & release collections with the same names at the same time.
It's essential to emphasize that this post isn't meant to undermine or discount the experiences of others in the swimwear and fashion industry. We understand that parallel designs can often be more than mere coincidences. In the competitive world of fashion, it's not uncommon for innovative designs to inspire others. While some coincidences do happen, it's also true that more deliberate acts of mimicry occur. As creators, we stand united in our support for designers who've worked tirelessly on their unique designs, only to see them replicated by others. We acknowledge the creativity and determination of all designers, and it's our hope that, in the spirit of artistic integrity, we can continue to respect and protect the authenticity of each other's work.
So your bikini print has been copied, can you do anything about it? The Answer is: not really.
There are so many challenges of protecting your designs due to copyright limitations. Copyright is a common topic that arises in these situations. As a small business in the world of swimwear fashion, the protection copyright offers is more limited than you might think. Our designs can be classified as "useful articles," meaning they have a practical function, and this often falls outside the scope of traditional copyright protection. Yes, we can copyright our illustrations, but this doesn't necessarily protect against those who might mimic the design in a similar but non-identical way. Large fashion conglomerates often have the means to pursue copyright infringement cases, but for small businesses like Tai Swim Co, it's an intricate, costly, and uncertain process that often doesn't yield the desired results. So, as frustrating as it can be when we see our designs imitated, the reality is, we're in a lose-lose scenario when it comes to copyright battles. The best thing to do it stay ahead of the trends & be original.
MORE EXAMPLES OF COINCIDENCES IN THE HAWAI'I DESIGNER WORLD:
(Tai Swim "Haena" print, released July 2023, source: Tai Swim Co)
(Acacia Swim "Islet" print, released unknown, source: Poshmark)
(Lokahi Swim "Earthy Hau" Print, released October 2023, source: Lokahi Swim)
(Benoa Swim "Hau" print, released November 2023, source: Poshmark)
(Acacia Swim "Taha'a" print, released unknown, source: Poshmark)
(Benoa Swim "Blue Hawai'i" print, released Summer 2023, source: Poshmark)
All of that being said, in this vibrant tapestry of inspirations and creations, it's essential to raise a discerning eye. The essence of Hawai'i, its culture, and its traditions, should be respected and honored. Unfortunately, there are instances of cultural appropriation, where brands, often not even based/from from Hawai'i, use sacred words like "aloha" and exploit Hawaiian symbols for profit. These actions trivialize the rich heritage of the islands and disrespect the native culture.
It's crucial to call out such appropriation and support genuinely local and authentic Hawaiian brands that not only draw inspiration from their roots but also actively contribute to the community and the preservation of Hawaiian culture.
Addressing Fast Fashion:
In this world of fashion, the pace and scale of production vary vastly. It's important to note that the dynamics we discussed earlier are often not applicable to the realm of fast fashion. Giant brands, fueled by massive resources and a global reach, can swiftly replicate designs, even from small designers, and bring them to market within a few weeks or even days. This starkly contrasts with the meticulous planning, dedication, and genuine artistic endeavor that go into creating unique designs by smaller, independent businesses. The struggle for smaller brands is not only about protecting their creations but also about advocating for ethical, thoughtful production in an industry dominated by speed and profit.
(example photo: Tai Swim Co Hanalei Print DEC 2020 release, next to rip off stolen design from Shein, released FEB 2021)
Additionally, determining if something is a legitimate copy isn't always straightforward. A telltale sign of a copied design is when elements match up precisely. For instance, if a flower motif has been traced or directly lifted, you can cut it out and overlay it on the suspected copy. If the lines align seamlessly, it's evident that the design was replicated. This practice is sadly prevalent, especially in the fashion industry, underlining the need for vigilance and supporting original creators.
It's crucial to emphasize that in most cases, the brands themselves aren't involved in contentious battles over these resemblances. Often, it's not even the designers who are perturbed by these coincidences but rather a few individuals who, for various reasons, take offense or find fault in such occurrences. In reality, it's a matter of perspective, and most designers, while protective of their creations, understand that this field of artistry often shares common threads due to the inherent nature of inspiration and creativity. The fashion industry is one of camaraderie and mutual respect, and it's usually the exceptional outlier that stirs up any controversy. So, as we navigate this unique world of swimwear and fashion, let's remember that unity and collaboration often outweigh discord.
So, wouldn't it be awesome if all these local brands put their brains in the same room and designed a print they could all release together?
While the idea of all these brands coming together and collaboratively designing a print is a dreamy one, it's a notion that Tai might hold exclusively for now. Until such a creative coalition becomes a reality, let's cherish the diversity of Hawai'i-inspired designs they offer. Each brand brings its unique touch, telling its own story of the islands we love. The vibrant hibiscus, the tranquil ocean, or the lush tropical foliage, captured through these various lenses, allow us to celebrate and share the spirit of Hawai'i in multiple forms. At the heart of it, isn't that the essence of the Hawai'i's culture we all grew up in?
In the enchanting world of Hawai'i-inspired fashion, similarities do exist, but they're not mere copies. At least not every time. The shared love for Hawai'i's natural beauty, intertwined with a meticulous planning process, often results in parallel creations. It's a celebration of the island's allure and the profound impact it has on the creative minds shaping Hawai'i's fashion landscape. So, next time you see striking resemblances, remember, it's not necessarily always a matter of copying, but an ode to the beauty that Hawai'i shares with the world 🌺🌿
Supporting Original Designers Through Conscious Consumerism
While we've discussed the challenges and nuances of the fashion world's coincidences and copies, it's crucial to remember that as consumers, you have the power to influence positive change. Supporting original designers and businesses committed to ethical and sustainable practices is one way to foster a more responsible fashion industry.
Research Before You Shop: Take a moment to research the brands you're interested in. Look for their values, their commitment to ethical practices, and their sourcing policies. Are they supporting local artisans or contributing to the communities they draw inspiration from?
Prioritize Authenticity: When shopping for swimwear and fashion, prioritize brands that are genuinely inspired by the cultures they represent or the environments they draw from. Seek out companies that engage in fair trade practices and are dedicated to protecting the ecosystems they love.
Ask Questions: Don't be afraid to ask brands questions about their production processes, sourcing, and ethical standards. The more informed consumers are, the more accountable the industry becomes.
Educate Others: Share your knowledge and experiences with friends and family. By raising awareness about ethical fashion practices and the potential issues with copycat designs, you're contributing to a more informed and conscious fashion community.
Hold Brands Accountable: When brands engage in unethical practices or cultural appropriation, it's important to hold them accountable. Your voice, along with others, can pressure brands to rethink their practices and become more responsible.
Remember, it's not just the responsibility of businesses to change; it's also up to consumers to drive positive change in the fashion industry. By supporting brands committed to ethical and original design, you're contributing to a more sustainable and authentic fashion landscape.
Finally, in the grand scheme of things, it's essential to remember that these fashion coincidences, though intriguing to discuss, are relatively minor issues in our world. While we, as designers and creators, value our craft and protect our work, it's important not to lose sight of the more significant challenges and problems facing society. If you ever find yourself getting worked up over these resemblances, it might be a good moment to take a step back, breathe, and focus on the more profound issues that warrant our collective attention. After all, fashion, while a vibrant and creative industry, is just one facet of a much larger world.
The photos showcased in this article were generously submitted by loyal customers of the brands mentioned. While they illustrate intriguing resemblances, we embrace and encourage our community to keep sharing instances of coincidences, copies, or similar designs. If you come across such occurrences in the ever-evolving world of fashion, please don't hesitate to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be delighted to incorporate them into this ongoing conversation.