Have you seen this new Marcy Tilton pattern, Vogue 8761?
Have you ever noticed the logo in the upper right corner? It’s Marcy Tilton’s logo:
If you can’t read the small print under, it says “Vogue Patterns Designer Original”. Vogue, and Marcy Tilton, want you to know that you’ve just paid for something special: an original design by a “designer”. This is (allegedly) something you can’t get anywhere else.
On the back of the pattern, you can see this:
It says: “SOLD FOR INDIVIDUAL HOME USE ONLY AND NOT FOR COMMERCIAL OR MANUFACTURING PURPOSES ONLY.” There’s a copyright notice above this line; that means that Marcy Tilton and Vogue own this design, and no one else can profit from it.
Well, that seems fair, doesn’t it? Marcy Tilton (and Vogue) are selling you the right to make items from this pattern just for your own personal use.
They are reserving the right to make money off this design, because it’s their own, original design. Marcy Tilton has put sweat, effort, and presumably, development expense, into designing this pattern so that she can sell it, first to Vogue, and then to you.
EXCEPT . . . EXCEPT that when I bought this pattern, I was wearing this bag, which a fantastic company named Baggallini has sold for years:
This is the Baggallini Uptown bag. That shiny plate on the front says “Baggallini”.
And, at that moment, at home in my closet, was this bag:
(Yeah, all rumpled. It didn’t know it was going to get its picture taken today.)
This one’s my favorite Baggallini bag of all time, the Milano, which Baggallini was selling a long time before this Tilton pattern became available this month.
Baggallini is an interesting company. It was started by stewardesses who wanted better purses for travel. You know, just people who had a good idea and thought they might grow a business from it. Kind of like what a designer might do, too, when starting out — imagine things, create them, and grow a business.
At first, Baggallini offered very utilitarian bags, but in recent years, they’ve gotten more adventuresome, and now offer new, more fashionable, lines. The Milano, above, is from their trendiest, the “International Collection”. Apparently, it’s catching quite a few eyes.
Here’s the line drawing for the Tilton pattern:
The differences between the Tilton “designs” and the Baggallini bags are inconsequential. Vogue/Tilton have even used exactly the same, somewhat unusual, closure for the view B bag as the one that is sold on the Baggallini Milano.
These two bags in the Vogue pattern are not “original” in any sense of the word. The “designs” were Baggalini before they were “Tilton”.
Although both Tilton and Vogue license this pattern under terms that do not allow you to profit from their work, they apparently, have no problem profiting from someone else’s labor and development, themselves. They just don’t want to be the ones ripped-off.
Nothing in the pattern, on the Tilton site, or on Vogue’s site, indicates that this pattern is authorized, or licensed, by Baggallini.
This is a particularly interesting situation since it calls into question the value of the Marcy Tilton brand. What kind of “designer” offers previously marketed work and repackages it as his or her own?
Any one of us might buy a Baggallini bag and copy it. Home stitchers do this, or some variation of it, all the time. BUT IF THEY ARE ETHICAL PEOPLE, THEY DO NOT SELL PRODUCTS MADE FROM OTHER’S DESIGNS. And this isn’t a case of someone making one of something for personal use; it’s a case of a “designer” selling something that looks virtually identical to something already on the market, made by another company entirely. And backed by a major publishing house.
This example is particularly interesting, too, because not one, but TWO, unoriginal designs are sold in this pattern envelope — both, seemingly, from the same source.
Marcy Tilton is not a home sewer; she is a person who has made her name, and her livelihood, on theoretically original designs that she creates. When you buy a Tilton pattern, you are buying Marcy Tilton’s “vision”, her aesthetic: Something, theoretically, you can’t find elsewhere. Except, it seems, when you can.
It makes me wonder if somebody saw all those Etsy sellers getting ripped off, and decided that, really, it was OK to lift whatever would sell, because who, really, would notice?
I did. I have a closet full of Baggalini bags, and I love them. I buy them because they are clever, stylish, and easy to wear and use. Apart from ethical and legal considerations, Baggalini deserves more respect than this.
And there’s that other nagging question: Why design at all if you can just take what others have already done and claim it as your own?
If there’s a good explanation for this I’d just love to hear it.
Update 7/18/2011: A reader has written to let me know that there is a link to Baggallini on Tilton’s website. Tilton recommends the Baggallini Rolling Tote on her “Life Tools” page.
This confirms that Tilton is familiar with Baggallini products.
The mystery regarding the release of two designs that so closely mirror Baggallini’s, under the Tilton name, without any mention of Baggallini, still baffles. It’s odd that the designs are so obviously similar, yet no explanation is offered. This seems a strange choice when the lack of an acknowledged link is virtually guaranteed to raise questions.