This is an illustration of why a copyright for fashion is a really bad idea. I asked my fashionista roommate to name a current trend for me to create an illustration. (I have no fashion credibility because I am currently wearing a pair of Birkenstocks that I've owned since high school). I Froogled “Gladiator Sandal” and this is a small collection of what comes up.
First, as Guy Trebay, fashion writer for the New York Times once asked, “Is it shocking anymore to learn that fashion designers don't design so much as swipe from fashion history?” This is a great example of how all fashion is derivative. The inspiration for these sandals is millennia old. No one can claim to have been the originator of a design that dates back thousands of years, and so no designer should be granted a monopoly over the design.
Second, copying facilitates the rapid growth of trends. If the government gave the first designer who registered a gladiator sandal a three year monopoly over that design and those that are substantially similar, then only that designer would be producing such a shoe and a trend would likely never develop. Trends need the wide audiences that come with copying and derivative designs to develop. Can you imagine this being a trend if only one design was available instead of the dozen shown above?
Third, copying fashion designs benefits designers and consumers. Consumers win because they have a broad range of style choices over a broad price range – the sandals pictured above are priced from $7.98 to $210. Designers win because every designer has an opportunity to capitalize on the “Gladiator” trend. And they benefit from the additional sales that a rapid fashion cycle fuels. When a trend quickly spreads and becomes unfashionable, consumers spend again to get the latest designs, even though their old clothes remain functional.