If you’ve been following Wanderlust + Co on Instagram, you’d have seen the recent controversy surrounding copyright infringement. The Malaysian jewellery brand, known for its consciously produced jewellery pieces, had its designs copied and sold by a fast-fashion company from China called Shein. This event revealed a look into intellectual property (IP) theft and the reality of independent brands like Wanderlust + Co who have built themselves on ethics and appreciation for the care that goes into creating.
Wanderlust + Co’s CEO and founder Jenn Low tells us, “It has truly been such a heartbreaking experience, and we have been quite disheartened as a team, to see our efforts passed off as someone else’s — from our designs, to the visual content being used to aid the sale of the copies.”
“Over the last few months…”
For brands big and small in the fashion industry, imitation is not the highest form of flattery — especially when talking about production. All of the Wanderlust + Co jewellery designs originate from hand sketches before the concept is moulded in 3D and hand-painted with an enamel finish. To copy and resell for cheap, raises concerns far beyond competitive pricing.
“Over the last few months, copies of our Original Tarot Series have surfaced across various online websites and platforms, all of which are not affiliated with the Wanderlust + Co brand nor our official retail partners,” reveals Jenn.
On top of the stolen designs, these shops had also used content from Wanderlust + Co’s website and social media platforms to use for false marketing, passing the content off as their own.
“During this time, our customer service and social media teams have sadly been receiving emails questioning the authenticity of our original pieces,” shares the CEO.
“As an independent, homegrown jewellery brand, our team takes great pride to consciously produce original products in a sustainable manner, working only with BSCI certified factories. All of our pieces are designed exclusively by our largely female team, and are part of our globally trademarked Intellectual Property (IP).”
The issue with fast-fashion
Jenn revealed that Wanderlust + Co had even received messages on social media where customers were questioning the originality and its products and its prices. She tells us that her hope in discussing the vicious copy-and-paste cycle in fast fashion, is to create a a greater understanding and appreciation for what happens behind-the-scenes to power an independent brand.
“(Our intention is) to highlight that real people are investing time, effort and energy into creating what we see on the digital front end of brands,” she says.
When producing a new collection for Wanderlust + Co, Jenn says that the pieces go through months of development, starting from hand sketches and drawing boards, to 3D moulds, production and 30-day wear tests to ensure quality and comfort.
Jenn adds, “Over the last 11 years, we have also come to thoroughly understand what it costs to produce in a sustainable manner and to fairly pay the artisans who make our jewellery. The copies are being sold at prices far lower than our actual product costs, let alone other business costs like shipping, packaging to ensure products arrive safely, and the livelihood of our Wanderlust + Co team who create and power everything you see on the front end. The prices that the copies are being sold at are really worrying, and very likely made in sweatshops, using unsustainable methods and materials that are not kind to our skin or the planet.”
What can brands do to protect its products?
“Definitely register your brand and design copyright,” advises the CEO. And if a brand finds themselves in a similar situation, Jenn adds, “Engage a reputable Intellectual Property legal team or lawyers, and familiarise with your rights and how to pursue them, as well as how to defend your copyright.”
Jenn says brands should consider being transparent about the situation, to protect its design integrity and create awareness around why these types of situations hurt brands and companies. This philosophy-strategy is how and why Wanderlust + Co decided to start addressing the situation on social media.
The brand began created and posting content to help its customers distinguish between originals and fakes, informatively showcasing the importance of quality and what true high-quality entails.
“Honestly we weren’t sure what to expect when we started sharing the situation publicly, and we are so glad that we did. It’s a huge relief, after months of managing this situation behind the scenes, to be able to speak our truth on the situation,” Jenn shares appreciatively.
As for next steps, the company is working with its IP lawyers to take legal action against said parties in violation of its IP, and illegally distributing copies of Wanderlust + Co’s products.
“We have been and will continue to reach out to these platforms and businesses that are selling the copies, to urge them to do the right thing and remove copies of products by creators and independent brands that they are profiting from, including ours. The year is now 2021, and platforms and businesses should step up and do better when it comes to championing and nurturing creative and original work.”
(All images: Wanderlust + Co)
This story first appeared on Prestige Online Malaysia