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Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Real World

Having spent the last week at the Clothes Show Live at the NEC in Birmingham, I was painfully aware on my return home, of the real face of disposable fashion. Its very easy to hide away from it usually. I rarely go to the ‘high street’ and don’t really buy clothes from main stream shops. I endeavour to buy only second hand, make my own or buy from carefully chosen retailers or small companies. Occasionally I venture to the city centre but rarely if ever, come back with clothing from a high street store. So to spend a week, face to face, with cheap knock offs of what the high street do, was quite depressing. Stalls selling ‘hand knit’ cardigans, capes and christmas themed sweaters for less than £10 were everywhere. On the last day, dresses were being sold at two for £1.  In our area of the show, all the stand holders were there to promote hand made garments, jewelry, home furnishings etc. It was a hard six days with many of my fellow stand holders losing a considerable amount of money, after being assured by the organisers that there would be tens of thousands of people coming past their stands eager for something new and exciting. Of the few people who, despite the lack of signage, promotion and the complete lack of heating in our area, did venture over, many were very positive. Some however, were distinctly disappointed that I wouldn’t sell the garments from A Stitch in Time for £20 or £30. I explained many, many times about the time consuming nature of the knitting but how the end result was so worthwhile. Some people got it, some even bought the books as a result of this argument, more unfortunately just walked away as they couldn’t or didn’t want to spend the time knitting them.

Significantly, one of the most popular display garments on the stand was the Perfect Christmas Jumper, persuading many customers to start knitting again, or to challenge themselves with something more complex, or even to learn knitting so that they could work their way up to a christmas jumper for next year. This patience and lack of need for instant gratification is what I so wanted to inspire, and would have been delighted if even just one person had been persuaded to knit it. Its ability to inspire people to take up their knitting needles, is what makes this pattern so important to me, and why I was so distressed to see such a poor interpretation that could be bought without a second thought, out there on the high street. In addition, whilst still at the show, we heard one purchaser mention as she walked away, that she was going to run some up on her knitting machine and sell them at car boot sales and a ‘cheap and cheerful’ retailer working out how cheaply he could get them made for in acrylic and machine knit for his market stall. So all in all, the H & M issue came on top of an already depressing week.

I already feel as though a whole week of creativity has been lost in the void that was the Clothes Show Live and desperately want to get on with getting Stitch in Time 2 pre release sorted, new kits and patterns onto the website and new designs worked on. To start trying to fight a major high street giant is beyond my means financially and beyond my strength mentally and physically. I have shown mine and theirs together on the blog, I have named and shamed on Twitter, and I will send an email to make them aware of the similarities of the two garments, but I won’t be going any further. I need to focus on creating, designing and making and I think the anger and frustration that may very well ensue from any sort of protracted argument with such a huge company would, quite frankly, finish me off.

The tale is told, I’ve shown it for what it is, a cheap copy, but I need to keep going with my planned path over the next few months and not let myself be drawn into something that I might struggle to get out of! It might not be what everyone might prefer me to do, and it doesn’t bring about justice, I realise that, and I do hope, people don’t feel let down by me, but I have to do what is better for me, and with such an enormous work load ahead of me over the next few months, the choice is made.

Thank you everyone for your words of support and some extremely good advice. To know you are not on your own makes all the difference.

ETA. The Christmas Jumper makes an appearance on Glee

for now
Ruby xx


Anonymous said...

I understand completely why you've decided as you have. It sucks mightily that small, independent designers can get screwed so mightily by the big corporates, yet not be in a position to do a thing about it. If I bought from H&M (which I don't) I'd stop. What I will do is make sure I buy the pattern for the real jumper, make my own and wear it with defiant pride.

Anonymous said...

I totally understand how you feel.

However, I would take this post down for a couple of weeks until after you've sent your email and given them a chance to respond. Otherwise you've shown your hand and they'll know not to offer you anything by way of compensation.

I understand what you mean about the Clothes Show - I was working for I Knit at the Ideal Home Show (16 days!! luckily I was in the shop some days and not at the show the whole time) and it was soul destroying. The organisers also didn't treat us that well - we understood we were getting a stand for free, which was great, but when we got there we had half the space we'd been promised and no lighting - apparently if we wanted light we had to pay for it! We were surrounded by cheap tat and 2 for 1 deals and no one really wanted to spend the time to sit and learn to knit.

Let us know if you want us to make more fuss on Twitter. I understand if you don't - if it got to Hidden Eloise proportions you'd be spending a lot of time dealing with blog comments and media enquiries. We've all got a limited amount of energy and I understand how you want to use yours positively and creatively, and that in itself is inspiring - too many of us spend too much time on negativity.

And with that, I need to go and channel some energies of my own!

MayaB said...

Dear Susan.

Having been a market trader at Spitalfields Market I know exactly what you are talking about, and I do relate to how you feel. Having to "compete" with cheap mass produced acrylic knitwear from China, almost killed my spirit. Having endless conversations with people who's only concern is how cheap you can get something, not paying any consideration towards environmental or ethical issues, is extremely depressing.

I'm so happy that I was able to open my shop, and that most people that visit me now have a completely different attitude towards what I'm trying to communicate through my business and my passion for knitting.

I'm happy that you decided not to let this keep you down, and to move on with what is constructive and inspiring for you. And know that you truly are an inspiration to others, despite the impression you might got during the last week.


Woolly said...

Hugs m'dear, I understand exactly how you feel, and how draining this could be in the long run, and I hope others understand this too.

Something we could all do to help you is to encourage those handknitters who might have seen the H&M jumper and wish to make a version of their own, to visit you and buy your pattern.

Andi said...

My sister (who doesn't knit) has been dying for the Christmas Jumper ever since I showed her the preview of it on your blog last year. She knows that a cheaper version is available at H&M is available but knowing it is such a blatant knock off, won't buy it. She's just going to continue to try to convince me to knit it for her. I just wanted you to know that even nonknitters will side with small designers when they see them being ripped off.

Mim said...

:( This all sounds unspeakably awful for you. I wasn't impressed with CSL either - can't say much for professional reasons, but I did feel overall it felt far too much about consuming, with no real love of textiles or appreciation of what goes into a really good garment.

Vera Amos said...

You know there is one difference in this your design is so much more classier than that dish rag of a copy. I feel very sad for the knock off merchants, how boring their lives must be. Don't loose heart Susan just think of all those people you inspired that far outweighs the negative. Take care, Nicky xx

Chrissy said...

I'm so sorry that you have had this horrible thing done to you at a time when you feel low and drained already. You have to do what is right for you and your business not what other people think you should do.I'm glad you have emailed H&M as they may not be aware that someone has copied your work. However you can rest assured in the knitting world everyone knows you were there first.

Georgie said...

People at work are always saying to me "You could get that from Primark" when they see me knitting.. Erm, I don't think so! I give them the argument you mention and love that I have the skills to make something so beautiful and of such quality you really wouldn't find on the High Street. Plus, it's not been made by exploitation.
I revel in the quiet satisfaction I get from each tiny stitch.


Mrs. Exeter said...

The sort of people who would buy that H&M sweater, and the acrylic knitting machine monster are never going to get what you're about. It's like owning a Gainsborough as opposed to buying a nasty print from Wilkinsons.

I'm glad you're saving your energy for your unique and beautiful creative work, and look forward to seeing more of it.

fabriquefantastique said...

Susan, I know what you are talking about...believe me, I've been there. At one vintage/new clothes show I was at a few years ago, on the last day a dealer was selling everything in the booth for $10 (the organizers announced it for her)the last 1 1/2hr ...$5...then the loud announcement was 'come and get it' all free. Needless to say there was a stampede, no other vendor could get a look in and it was the last time I did that show. Do you think the disposable clothes thing might come to a natural end in a few years?
I, for one, am looking forward to A Stitch in Time #2.

Anonymous said...

I suppose this is typical for the age we live in...
Nearly all products are available as fakes, not only designer goods, but also pharmaceuticals, which is not only anoying, but puts peoples' lives at risk.
Everything is done for profit, ethics do not count.
On the other hand, neary everybody can afford nowadays what used to be a privilege of the very rich: eat meat every day of the week and buy new clothes and shoes every season, even a special christmas-jumper to be worn only once or twice.
Even though I do not like this "cheap" society, I think there are many people who cannot afford anything else and do not want to save for ten years before they can afford a new winter coat.
As for knitting, it definitely does not pay...I would be lucky to get one euro per hour of knitting if I sold my socks. It is more about the process and having an unique piece of clothing. Therefore I am also waiting for your second volume of a stitch in time, which I will definitely buy, even though I cannot knit anything involving sleeves.

Mim said...

I thought this site might interest you - it's for designers who've had their work copied

.x.Helen.x. said...

The essence of your work is quality. While it is little consolation, H&M clearly haven't figured out how to "knock off" that. In moving forward, your health (mental and financial) is most important. Hugs x

Vanessa Hubbard said...

As you know, I had a great time at the Clothes Show, enhanced by your being there. Our stand taught around 350 people to knit, and hopefully some of those will end up buying your books and yarn and getting really addicted to this fantastic hobby.

I admire your decision not to put all your energy into chasing H&M, but instead to concentrate on your own path. A very brave decision which comes from someone who is very strong and well supported by family.

Flossy and Dossy said...

I'm so sorry this has happened to you Susan. I'm a big fan of your beautiful designs and as a small independant designer I know how hard it is to fight against the highstreet. Luckily there are still a few people out there who are willing to pay for quality and style over instant gratification.

I hope this set back doesn't discourage you too much.

St Trinians said...

I too spend little time in the high street shops and it is a shock when I do go into a shop selling cheap disposable fashion - it really is another world . The decision not to pursue H&M through the courts is a pragmatic decision and will hopefully save you even more anguish. However, to return your recent kindness to me, I will now write to H&M to express my concerns. Hopefully if few more people do the same, they will at least think about an apology?

mandicraft said...

I love to make my own clothes or recycle by buying vintage. It's funny how some of the high street shops now have vintage inspired ranges, it's so much better to have a rummage and find the originals, not inferior remakes/copies. I love my handknits, friends like to receive my handknits as gifts. If anything I've inspired other knitters to come out of the woodwork.
Don't lose heart, your designs are inspirational, now I'm getting off my soap box and back to my knitting xx