Knockoffs are all too common in the world of fashion–especially now that social media allows retailers to have an inside look at their competitors’ inner workings.

The latest high-profile lawsuit, involving New York-based swimwear brand Kiini and famed lingerie powerhouse Victoria’s Secret, was settled late last month, despite the fact it was filed in October 2015.

“According to Kiini’s complaint, Victoria’s Secret produced a bathing suit that looked ‘virtually indistinguishable’ to its original bikini design. Though the terms of the settlement are confidential, the [law]suit is worth reflecting on,” The Fashion Law writes.

“Kiini, which has gained a ‘cult-like following and is known for the original, distinct, copyright-protected swimwear designs,’ initiated the action against the lingerie giant for copyright infringement, trade dress infringement, and unfair competition.”

There are tons of Kiini dupes on the online market from small web-based boutiques nowadays, but when a retail giant like Victoria’s Secret blatantly copies a high-end swimwear brand, there are several complex lessons to be learned.

Kiini original bikini [source: Lyst]

Victoria’s Secret dupe [source: Bikini Mecca]

“As Kiini set forth in its complaint, Victoria’s Secret allegedly marketed and sold an infringing copy of Kiini’s well-known bikini design ‘in the pursuit of its own self promotion and profit, and to Kiini’s unfair harm and detriment,'” The Fashion Law continues.

“The Kiini swimsuit in question–which is stocked by high end retailers, such as Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman and Net-A-Porter, and retails for $165 for a top and $120 for a bottom–has ‘become a much sought after bikini.'”

The pricey bikinis, worn in a number of editorials, as well as by celebrities like Heidi Klum and Cara Delevingne, are known for their amazing attention-to-detail and stunning bohemian design are obviously of the highest quality. Not to mention, they are ultimately a product of Ipek Irgit’s, the brand’s founder and creative director, intellectual property.

“Irgit obtained federal copyright protection for the bikini design in December 2014, making Kiini the ‘sole and exclusive owner to all right, title and interest in and to the copyright to the design,'” according to The Fashion Law.

“The brand alleges that in addition to enjoying federal copyright protection, it has developed trade dress rights, as ‘the purchasing public has come to associate the distinct Kiini trade dress with Kiini, and Kiini trade dress has achieved secondary meaning.'”

The trade dress at hand?

“[It] consists of: ‘1) a triangle profile bikini; 2) a distinctive, rectangular crochet pattern that borders the edges of the bikini; 3) the rectangular geometric pattern is doubled at the bottom edge of the bikini top, and the top edge of the bikini bottom; 4) bright color blocking resulting from a woven interlaced pattern of contrasting colored and textured material, specifically elastic and crochet yarn; and, 5) the bikini top’s upright triangle profile and the bikini bottom’s upside down triangle profile,'” according to The Fashion Law.

“For the uninitiated, trade dress extends to the total image of a product and can be based on shape, size, color, texture and graphics. In order to be eligible for trade dress protection, a design must serve as a non-functional identifier of source.”

Furthermore, “per Kiini, the triangle designs featured on the bathing suit at issue are in no way functional and that ‘the only reason to copy the Kiini trade dress is to attempt to trade off its goodwill and draw sales away from Kiini. This is exactly what [Victoria’s Secret] has unfairly and unlawfully done here.'”

Unsurprisingly, this is not Victoria’s Secret’s first rodeo. In 2012 the California-born, Ohio-based lingerie retailer was sued by Zephyrs, a hosiery supplier, for selling shoddy versions of their designs.

“Zephyrs filed a complaint in federal court in Ohio charging the lingerie behemoth with using images of its products on packaging and in-store product displays, while selling a cheaper version of the product inside,” according to The Huffington Post.

“In a nutshell, Victoria’s Secret used to sell Zephyrs’ Italian-made hosiery, but cut ties with them, switched to a Canadian supplier and allegedly didn’t change images or text on the packaging, except for adding a ‘Made In Canada.’ In addition to the $15 million for breach of contract, Zephyrs is also seeking “corrective advertising” and a recall of the accused products.”

The parties settled out of court for an undisclosed amount and “mutually agreed to dismiss the claims and counterclaims with prejudice,” according to The Fashion Law.

More recently, in 2015, Victoria’s Secret began copy-catting Triangl, another upscale swimwear brand. The distinct sporty swimsuits feature thick black lines that separate blocks of bold colors. Via social media platforms like Twitter, The Fashion Law then went on to explain that Australia-based Triangl is the one of world’s most-copied swimwear brands.

Flipping through Victoria’s Secret’s catalogs or strolling through a brick-and-mortar store, nearly anyone in the fashion or retail industries will notice the company frequently knocks-off designs from high-end brands like Kiini, Triangl and Gooseberry Intimates, a world-class French lingerie label.

“Kiini goes on to bolster its claim by stating that it is not the only one who noticed the similarities between its designs and the Victoria’s Secret copies. According to Kiini’s complaint, ‘several discerning customers have generated electronic content posted on popular social media, referring to the Victoria’s Secret copy-infringing design, and stating: ‘totally Kinii [sic] knock off,’ ‘Kiini copiers,’ and ‘Victoria’s Secret knock off Kiini,'” writes The Fashion Law.

“The complaint continues on to note that the similarities between its design and the Victoria’s Secret copy gave rise to actual confusion amongst consumers and offered evidence that consumers ‘queried on photos’ of the Victoria’s Secret copy, asking: ‘Is this a Kiini swimsuit or a Victoria’s Secret?’ Victoria’s Secret allegedly ignored the customer comments ‘chiding it for stealing the Kiini design, and they continue to intentionally market and sell their imitations.'”

Despite the number of copyright- and patent- based lawsuits Victoria’s Secret has faced, it seems the company is not slowing down its infringing design procedures. However, The Fashion Law makes an interesting point regarding the company’s practices:

“Interestingly, in the time since [Kiini] filed suit, Victoria’s Secret has folded its swimwear division entirely to focus exclusively on lingerie and loungewear.”

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March was such an exciting month for me because I officially became part of the Glossier team! I am now a Rep who uses my position as a blogger and social media influencer to promote Glossier’s entire range of skincare and makeup products.

As many of you know, I’ve been a Glossier fan for a year now–and an Into The Gloss reader for even longer. The brand has really changed the way I look at beauty products, and I am so excited to share my experiences with Haute Mess readers.

You can checkout my must-have Glossier goodies and shop the entire range through my Rep page. Plus, you will receive 20 percent off your purchase and earn free shipping each time you spend $30!

Now, let’s get into this month’s favorites:

Alo Yoga leggings: Even during the warmer months, I am much more comfortable working out in full-length leggings–I find that they stay in place much better than shorts do. Because I wear them nearly every day, I’m always in the market for a comfortable new pair. I’ve heard so many great things about Alo Yoga from fellow bloggers, so when I spotted this super cool, new-with-tags pair on Poshmark for nearly half-off retail value, I had to pick them up!

The white and gray color scheme mutes the otherwise flashy camouflage pattern, ensuring these pants totally match all the sports bras in my closet. They are comfy to run and lift in, aaaand their high-waist is really flattering. Thrifted via Poshmark

Airbrush Legging in White Camo, $88, aloyoga.com

Balm Dotcom by Glossier: This universal skin salve instantly become my holy grail beauty product the second I started using it in late February–not exaggerating! I wish I ordered this product sooner.

Not only does it treat dry patches without causing my face any breakouts or irritation, it is leaps and bounds above any other lip balm; trust me, I’ve tried them all. Again, not exaggerating. You can even use it to moisturize cuticles. If you only try one Glossier product, make sure it’s Balm Dotcom. It is my stranded-on-a-deserted-island must-have. $12, Glossier

(Psst! Save 20 percent on your first Glossier order + enjoy free shipping when you spend $30 by shopping through my link!)

Facial Spray with Aloe, Cucumber & Green Tea by Mario Badescu: As soon as the weather starts to warm up, my hair and skin become a little oily throughout the day, so facial sprays are a must for me this time of year. Last year I relied on Lush’s tea tree water toner, but this year I decided to switch it up.

Not only is Mario Badescu’s aloe, cucumber and green tea spray less expensive than Lush’s facial spray, it works just as well–if not better! This product is super refreshing; I use it a couple times a day to maintain a dirt- and oil-free face, while keeping my makeup in its place. And, it doubles as a soothing agent for irritated post-shaved or post-waxed skin. $7, Ulta

[source: Allure]

White Charcoal Mattifying makeup setting spray by Boscia: I’ve never owned a setting spray before! But, like I said, my skin tends to gets a little oily, so I was in the market for a little something extra to help my makeup stay put during the day–especially as weather starts to warm up.

Lauren Elizabeth, one of my fav YouTubers, mentioned Boscia’s White Charcoal Mattifying setting spray in her recent video, and I decided to check it out for myself. When I noticed 1 ounce of Boscia’s setting spray for an affordable price at Sephora, I decided to pick it up.

As many of you know, I favor Glossier’s dewy products; although they look amazing, they tend to slide around, especially in warm, humid climates, so I definitely need something to keep them down. This setting spray gets the job done with only two or three spritzes!

The magic of charcoal controls excess oil and detoxes the pores, while vitamin- and antioxidant-rich black tea visibly minimizes pores and protects skin from harmful free radicals. $12, Sephora

[source: Olivia Frescura]

Thicken & Restore Bamboo Fibers strengthening milk by Maui Moisture: I deal with hair breakage and loss as a result of coloring and styling my mane over the years, and I have yet to discover a strand-saving product. Coconut oil work wonders, but I was desperately in need of something I could use more regularly.

Maui Moisture’s thicken & restore range was highly recommended to me by a friend who also has weak hair, so I decided to try the strengthening milk this month as a replacement for my usual Garnier leave-in conditioner. After only a handful of uses, I am noticing less hair loss every time I wash or brush my mane. Plus, every day that I use this leave-in I am guaranteed to have killer, cooperative hair.

Because this range contains castor oil, which is known for its restorative properties, it is extremely thick, so I definitely recommend using only a little of this product at a time–or else you will end up with a weighed-down mane that looks greasy and is difficult to style. $8.99, Ulta

Amy Serrano’s no-heat hair straightening tutorial: My natural beach-y waves are great during the summer months, but they’re not really appropriate most months out of the year. Typically, I attempt to give myself an at-home blowout with a hair dryer and straightening wand, but that is super time-consuming and, as everyone knows, not good for the hair.

While browsing makeup videos on YouTube earlier this month, I stumbled upon a no-heat hair straightening tutorial by fellow Glossier rep Amy Serrano.

This technique, which Serrano refers to as el tubi tubi, is slightly tricky to get the hang of at first. But, once you get it, it definitely becomes second nature. And honestly, the results cannot be beat: el tubi tubi gives you glossy, blowout-style hair overnight–without the heat and with half the effort.

[source: Amazon]

Hermit in Paris by Italo Calvino: It has been raining a ton here in West Virginia, so I’ve been devouring books and magazines like no other. This month I picked up Hermit in Paris by Italo Calvino, which is a series of autobiographical writings by Cuban-born Calvino. His stories definitely provide an instant pick-me-up for those dreary days when all you want to do is daydream about living like a Parisienne. Prices vary, Amazon

Collagen: There is no doubt that collagen has been a major trend over the past few months–and what’s not to love? It is packed with anti-aging benefits, and it promotes joint tissue regrowth while preventing bone loss. We all need collagen in our diets, so instead of investing in pricey supplements, I decided to eat more of the foods that are naturally full of it.

The usual suspects, such as fish, dark green veggies and antioxidant-rich berries, have already been some of my lifelong favs. But, this month I also learned that red and orange veggies, citrus fruits and garlic (the best seasoning for all types of dishes in my opinion) are also rich in nutrients that promote collagen. I’ve been loading up on these foods all month long, working towards a brighter, flawless complexion for years to come.

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Anyone who uses social media is familiar with the concept of memes. But, no one expected to see memes created and published by an esteemed high-end retailer in lieu of a traditional ad campaign.

According to Google, a meme is “a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.” Earlier this month, luxury brand Gucci began utilizing memes to advertise their newest campaign, dubbed #TFWGucci. (For those of you who are not social media savvy, “TFW” is an acronym meaning “the feel when.”)

A scroll through Gucci’s Instagram profile (@gucci) reveals a slew of popular memes repurposed and aimed at its luxury consumers. Many followers were slightly shocked to see Gucci’s memes on their Instagram feeds.

After all, “it’s kind of a well-known fact that the fashion world, particularly the luxury goods industry, has been slow to adopt technology. And then it moved at a snail’s pace to get on social media,” according to Dash Hudson, a company that focuses on Instagram return on investment (ROI) for many big-name brands.

“Luxury labels have been getting by on these platforms thanks to name recognition, but as Instagram evolves and various content trends come and go, it is indeed becoming increasingly imperative for them to start shifting their thinking toward devising social-first strategies.”

By implementing this unique strategy, Gucci instantly set itself apart from its competitors, who do not keep up with social media content trends, such as memes.

“A lot of luxury brands don’t really appear to have a concise social strategy in place and just go about it according to their HQ’s marketing activities,” Dash Hudson continues.

Luxury fashion brands tend steer clear of mainstream trends, on social media or otherwise, in order to maintain their aloof, exclusive personas. So, it is no surprise that it came as, well, a surprise, with the Italian fashion house took on the quirky trend full-force.

[source: Dash Hudson]

The second post of Gucci’s entire meme campaign features a watch showing through a torn suit sleeve, captioned “When you got that new watch and have to show it off.”

With an engagement rate of 1.34 percent, according to Dash Hudson, this post sits in second place among the Gucci account’s top 4 highest performing posts of all time–second only to another #TFWGucci post. The third and fourth place posts are not associated with this campaign.

Gucci’s highest performing post of all-time, by a margin of .21 percent, is a close-up shot of a female model adorned with what appears to be Gucci-inspired temporary tattoos. Her hand and face are covered in drawn-on tags: an Instagram feature used to identify who’s who in a given picture.

“The top 2 memes from the campaign actually became [Gucci’s] top 2 most engaged posts of all-time, dethroning [a snapshot of] the Obamas,” according to Dash Hudson.

[source: Dash Hudson]

Followers are obviously responding well to this unconventional ad campaign, but, like the old phrases says, no good deed goes unpunished. Or, in this case, uncriticized. Fashion enthusiasts all over the world took to social media (of course) to speak out on Gucci’s new campaign.

“I’m not upset that Gucci is making memes now. I’m upset because the memes are bad,” @robesman writes via Twitter.

“These Gucci memes are not funny [and] really not relatable,” adds @erikabowes.

“I’m sure it sounded dope when they were brainstorming, but Gucci’s meme campaign is one of the lamest things I’ve ever seen,” @Sipho_Says writes.

Still, some fans of the brand are unsure how they feel about its new ad campaign.

“Gucci made itself a meme account, and I can’t decide if I love it or hate it,” @rubykburns tweets.

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Cloud Paints finally made their way into my beauty lineup earlier this week! I ordered Glossier’s newest release in the two darkest shades: Dusk and Haze.

These one-of-a-kind gel-cream blushes instantly became essential to my makeup routine because they apply so easily and look completely natural. Or, as Glossier puts it: they are seamless, they help achieve that flushed-from-within glow and their sheer, build-able pigment looks as if my skin made it.

Basically, they make you look like the Snapchat pretty filter IRL; you know, the softly lit one that low-key brings out everyone’s inner Gisele.

Cloud Paint in Dusk (top) and Haze (bottom)

No matter the time of year, I always opt for a glow-y bronze look in favor of cake-y Kardashian-inspired makeup–and cloud Paint in Dusk definitely helps me do just that. For this look in particular, I stayed away from powder products completely, so that I my face stayed as dewey and fresh as possible throughout the day.

Products I used:

  • First Aid Beauty oil-free Mattifying Gel
  • Bali Body BB Cream in Natural
  • Glossier Stretch Concealer in Medium
  • Maybelline Instant Age Rewind concealer in Brightener (160)
  • Glossier Cloud Paint in Dusk
  • Glossier Haloscope in Topaz
  • Benefit Watt’s Up! highlighter
  • Glossier Boy Brow in Brown
  • Boscia White Charcoal Mattifying makeup setting spray
  • Benefit Roller Lash mascara
  • Buxom Full-on lipstick in Sydney

Step 1: Apply FAB Mattifying Gel to a clean face, concentrating on the t-zone. Allow a couple minutes for it to dry.

Step 2: With fingers apply BB Cream all-over, again concentrating on the t-zone.

Step 3: Use Stretch Concealer to cover any blemishes, as well as redness around the nose. Allow the face to “bake” for 1-3 minutes before blending.

Step 4: Apply Instant Age Rewind concealer under the eyes, and wait 30 seconds to 1 minute before blending with a beauty sponge (I use Real Techniques’ Miracle Complexion sponge). Use the sponge to spread the product all over the eye area, including the lids.

Step 5: Suck in cheeks as if making a “fish face,” and apply Cloud Paint in Dusk to the hollow areas, focusing closer to the ears and hairline.

Step 6: Highlight the cheekbones, as well as the orbital bones around the eyes, with Haloscope in Topaz. Use fingers to blend edges for an airbrushed effect.

Step 7: Use Watt’s Up! to highlight the brow bones and the cupid’s bow.

Step 8: Brush Boy Brow through eyebrows starting in the middle of each brow, then focusing on the ends and inner sprouts.

Step 9: Spray Boscia’s setting spray all over face.

Step 10: Apply one even coat of Roller Lash to lower lashes and two even coats to upper lashes.

Step 11: Line the lips with Buxom’s Full-on lipstick in Sydney, then fill them in evenly with Sydney as well.

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If you’ve ever ordered something online and it arrived looking completely different, you are not alone. And, this is especially true if you’ve ordered from a high-end retailer like Net-A-Porter.

“In addition to Photoshopping their models, retailers Photoshop their clothes, too,” according to Galore. “At least Net-A-Porter does.”

On March 8, “Net-A-Porter accidentally uploaded a photo of a puffy coat with retouching notes on their website,” Galore continues.

[source: Cosmo]

According to the notes, the puffy coat was too puffy; “Please slim” was written with four arrows pointing towards different problem areas on the garment.

“A few hours later, Net-A-Porter realized [its] mistake and switched out the picture, but by then it was too late.”

Net-A-Porter replaced the marked-up image with a similar one; this time, however, the notes were removed and there was no apparent retouching, according to Cosmo.

“We post images that accurately represent the garments so that customers receive the product they expect,” Net-A-Porter told Cosmo in response to the incident. “This image was uploaded to our product page in error and the notes refer exclusively to the garments.”

[source: Cosmo]

It makes you wonder, if a luxury retailer like Net-A-Porter can get away with photoshopping garments that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, what are fast fashion retailers getting away with?

But, according to Marine Michel, a former a professional retoucher for a German luxury retailer similar to Net-A-Porter, high-end retailers use photoshop much more often than their low-end counterparts.

“[Low-end retailers] do it way less…I notice these things now when I go on [the] online shops,” Michel tells Galore.

“In the UK we have Boohoo, which is quite cheap, and it doesn’t look that retouched…Maybe a little bit of skin retouching, but [it is] very finely done. The same [is true] for H&M; it’s not that bad. But when you go to luxury retailers, then you realize how much they do it.”

So, what exactly do these high-end e-commerce sites retouch?

According to Michel, it is everything from stains to stitches to zippers.

“[Retouchers make] the clothes look a little better quality and [they make] the fabric look nicer…Sometimes you have this fabric cloth where you can immediately see through it from shitty online shops,” Michel continues.

“When the girl is wearing a dress and she has her legs slightly apart and you can see through the dress, you know [it] is a bad polyester fabric. Well, we would color it in so it would look like nice heavy material.”

“I mean the dress might cost 500 bucks, but it’s still shit quality, that doesn’t change anything. But we gotta sell it, so we gotta make it look good.”

Boohoo does not attempt to hide that this 100 percent viscose dress, embroidered with 100 percent polyester, is see-through, $28 [source: Boohoo]

Certainly, there is some level of unethical behavior at play here, but are these practices legal? I spoke with Sophia Bagienski-Mangual, sales manager of a small clothing company and Fashion Institute of Technology alumna, to uncover the truth.

“Photographers definitely touch the photos up big time,” Bagienski-Mangual says. Special, more flattering lighting also plays a large role in the images e-commerce websites use, she says, however, her company no longer advertises.

“When we did shoot some of our styles, we pinched them from the back to make them fit the models better. As far as better fabrics, it would depend on the item itself. If it were a polyester blend, we would [photograph] silk or another high-end fabric.”

As long as the retailers do not claim to sell garments made of silk or other luxury fabrics, they are in the clear. That is, the items’ descriptions on e-commerce sites must clearly state what exactly the customers receive when they order a garment, even if the images themselves do not match the fabric compositions listed.

“We knock-off styles all the time from high end lines; we just pick less expensive fabrics,” Bagienski-Mangual adds.

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