Runway Ripoffs Tailored in China?

One of the perks of a global career is the international shopping, and so a recent article in the Personal/Finance section on the web of the NY Times peaked my interest. The topic was whether or not it’s legal to have copies of your clothes made in Asia.  This topic is near and dear to my heart for I had a terrific tailor in Hong Kong. Margaret’s little shop was on the fifth floor in Central, right off Lan Kwai Fong (LKF is THE happening/dining/party place in Central for expats – kind of like an outdoor block party with revelers spilling into and onto the streets until the last call chimes at most bars at 1 am).

I used to visit Margaret every few months or so – after I went window-shopping in Central, admiring the lastest fashions in the Chanel, Moschino and Versace boutiques. Hong Kong is one of the richest cities on planet earth; designer clothes are both a staple in socialites’ lives and quite expensive. Plus, they usually didn’t fit me; although I’m average sized – an American 8 – I don’t have an Asian figure! And so I’d sit with Margaret and describe the suits, the dresses, the trousers I’d want her to make to fit my curves in the colors most becoming to me.  I’d describe a killer outfit I’d seen on a friend or colleague.  She’d sketch it out, right in front of me, ask me questions about fabrics, buttons, weight, season – and I’d come back 2 weeks later for a fitting, always marveling at Margaret’s exquisite ability to create exactly what I wanted that fit PERFECTLY. One week later I’d walk out, arms loaded with my precious purchases. I LOVED shopping this way, and it was certainly a perk of my relocation.

In fact, when my husband and I left Hong Kong, in addition to missing the close friends I’d made and the HK skyline (my favorite in the world), I missed Margaret! As I coursed through the NY Times piece, I wondered… Did I break the law? Are those clothes – some which still fit and have LASTED by virtue of being timeless in their classic beauty – contraband? Thank goodness, no. It seems that unless the copying overseas is for sale or trade, it’s perfectly legal. Whew. How about Margaret, is she breaking any laws? It seems not.  Margaret based her designs off of my descriptions – not a blouse in hand, which would probably have been considered in the public domain any way.

One of the benefits of an international career is the fun, personal stuff: traveling, shopping, eating, and living outside your cultural box. For all of you interested in having clothes made in Asia, do it, but I highly recommend a great tailor – not a fly-by-night that will produce clothes fast but will probably rip, conveniently, after you left the city (expensive returns!) and at a most inconvenient moment – like a client meeting or a job interview. Many of us have witnessed these embarrassing moments first hand – don’t let it happen to you.

And yes, for those of you still wondering, I spent quite a few evenings at LKW, enjoying the sultry night air at the base of Victoria Peak. In fact, one of my favorite restaurants in the world is Indochine on D’Aguilar Street. Stop there and enjoy the salt & pepper eggplant appetizer on your way back from seeing Margaret: Heaven on Earth.

Original posted on HuffingtonPost on Sept. 30, 2010

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