Is Imitation A Form Of Flattery

As creatives, our being revolves around being innovative. That innovation inspires others the same way we were once inspired by our predecessors.

But there’s a thin line between inspiration and imitation.  

Is it wrong?

One of my favorite books is “steal like an artist” by Austin Kleon. I loved it because it made me want to break free from the need to “be myself” and find my artistic style so early on. It was choking me. I wanted to sit in front of a canvas, have an epiphany and know exactly what i was meant to create for the rest of my life. Life doesn’t work that way. Instead I started paying attention to what I liked. Trying to create original pieces in similar styles that I had seen and liked. But creativity lives in me so I could never be satisfied mimicking another’s work. Instead I started picking and choosing what worked for me, what spoke to me, and leaving everything else, through that process I found my own style.

The idea is, there’s nothing new under the sun. In any form of art we are using the Lords masterpieces as inspiration anyways so anyone trying to reinvent the wheel is fooling themselves. But that gets misinterpreted. In the case of B.íng (pronounced be•ing), it would be completely different if someone was “inspired” by his jackets and decided to hand draw some lettering. A different phrase, different mission behind it. But to turn someone else’s hand-drawn masterpiece into a screen printed mass production to pass off as your own is copying. There’s no creativity or self discovery behind it, just copying.

I’ve watched it, it makes it hard to talk about what you’re doing. You want to self promote yourself but not put your ideas at risk. Next thing you know there’s a whole fake page posting your work and taking “commissions” how sis? (or bro) That’s my work. 

So how do we find that balance?

If being me is truly what you want, I will teach you. But the problem with that is you will always only be behind me. You will only go where I have been rather than forging your own path. I don’t even want to go where I’ve been I want to go BIGGER.

I brought Barry on to talk about his experiences. In a little over a month he has found numerous duplicates of his original jackets & hoodies. It hits close to home because I remember when the idea was just starting up. There has always been a purpose and a mission bigger than him and just creating clothing.

R: How it started? How did you come up with the concept?

B: The concept of Love Me Before They All Do was created shortly after I graduated college in 2015. I ended up doing some freelance creative director work and traveling across the country touring with an artist. I’m a writer by nature, going back as long as I can remember I have written every day. To this day I still write every day. Until recently I’ve always kept the things that I wrote to myself. I was writing one of those days on tour and the words Love Me Before They All Do came out. It was the summary of a bunch of different emotions I was feeling in one line. I found a blank hat and a blank T-shirt that same day and painted those words on them simply because that’s how I felt. I’d wear them both for the rest of the tour, that’s how it all started.

R: Where has that original idea evolved?

Getting to where I am now took continuous legwork. Also surrounding myself with the right people and building meaningful relationships with these people. Staying curious is big for me also. I’m aware there’s always something out there that I’ve never experienced, and things that I don’t know so I have a lot of questions. But with these questions there has to be action to behind them in order to find a solution to the task at hand or an answer to the question.

R: What is your creative process like?

B: Movement is very important. I create constantly, largely based on what I feel at the moment, wherever I am in the world. Some of my best thoughts and ideas come to me when I’m in the gym. Because words & storytelling are so important to me music plays a big role also. Growing up listening to guys like Andre 3000, Jay-Z, & Cam’ron, I gained an appreciation for each of their respective styles of vivid wordplay & storytelling because they all made me think, and listen deeper to catch certain things they would say to paint the picture of the story they were telling.

R: What has been happening with your brand and the copying?

B: Since Russell Westbrook first wore one of my jackets in 2016 there were multiple instances where people have tried to recreate the jacket they saw their favorite player wearing. These instances were flattering because upon finding out I had created the original of what they were attempting to recreate, they reached out to me and let me know it was unintentional. So far in 2018 there have been multiple instances of other companies intentionally trying to recreate my trademarked work. This is still a pending matter so I can’t get too much into that at the moment.

R: Are you influenced by any creatives?

B:The only human being I’ve ever tried to imitate in my life is my father. He has never been wrong about anything, it’s amazing. As far as creative influences on the fashion side I would say Haider Ackermann & Martin Margiela. I had a strong sense of who I was before learning much about either designer or their work, so by the time I did discover their work I quickly knew I resonated with the way they chose to present themselves and what they were creating.

R: How do you take something, like say painting on clothing, and make it your own?

B: I believe in the saying there is nothing new under the sun, everything has been done before to some degree. I think there is a very thin line between “being inspired”, and copying. I think at the end of the day everything is inspired by something, but with that inspiration there has to be some original element of yourself going into whatever it is you’re creating. If you are intentionally trying to pass off somebody else’s pre-existing work as your own that is stealing.

R: How does it feel when you see your work used as inspiration or even copied?

Overall it’s flattering. Seeing my work copied is bittersweet because it’s my intention to create products & messages that resonate with and help people all over the world. At the same time I put too much of myself into what I create for any of my creations to be misrepresented in anyway shape or form.

I’d say the jury’s out on this topic. If there is no quest for personal growth, no deeper thought going into something besides “that looks cool, i’m sure I could make some money off of that” then it is copying, stealing, and not just inspiration.

For my fellow artists I say: protect your ideas. Do what you need to do legally, but also remember energy is powerful. Be grateful that you are in a position to be copied and take it as validation you’re doing the right thing. You’re making work worth stealing, good job! You can’t do much besides complain, so save that energy and decide how you will better protect your ideas. They cannot be you, and as you evolve (as all creatives do) they will be stuck mimicking the work that’s been done and going places you’ve already paved the way in.


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