fast fashion, slow burn: an interview with luci wilden of knots&vibes

If you are a person who actively uses the internet, chances are you recently came across a social post from UK-based crochet fashion line Knots & Vibes expressing frustration with e-commerce brand FashionNova for lifting a design from the Knots & Vibes catalogue and selling it on their site.

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A post made when Wilden discovered FashionNova had lifted her design stitch for stitch, via Knots & Vibes on Instagram.

In the aforementioned social post, Luci Wilden, owner and designer of the hand-made line, notes the similarities between the fast fashion design and her own.  “I designed the green version of this [Skin Out dress] in 2016 & this colour in 2017,” she writes.  The FashionNova design only recently appeared online.

The blatant piracy struck a chord with people over social media: Wilden’s Instagram post received over 22,000 likes and 2,000 comments. A repost of Wilden’s Instagram onto Twitter sparked tens of thousands of more frustrated reactions.

When asked about her initial response to FashionNova pirating her design stitch for stitch, Wilden told The LipLiner, “I was shocked and quite angry that it was such a close copy. I know it’s common practice for high street brands to copy others, but I thought that they usually at least changed a few things.” (Wilden notes in her Instagram post that the stitching is identical, down to the number of rows in the stripes ). She continues, “…the fact that every detail was more or less the same was very annoying because it means they are taking custom away from my brand.”

The true affront in the piracy of the design (though said piracy is ultimately hard to prove as it is extremely difficult to copyright patterns) is that it dilutes everything that Wilden and Knots & Vibes stands for and represents.  Her brand is deeply rooted in not only authenticity, but Jamaican culture, and selling falsified products created by laborers who received ghastly wages for their work is the antithesis of just that. Wilden said that her designs are extremely labor intensive and can take anywhere from three hours (to make a small bralette) to ten hours (to create a netted dress). Because she independently owns the label and has two other jobs herself, hiring employees to work for her at a livable wage would not be feasible without raising the retail cost of her products considerably, which she does not want to do to spite her customers.   Beyond her dismay at the disregard for small business originality, Wilden expresses concern for the person who handmade the piece for FashionNova, noting that the retail price of the dress is 40 USD and the production price 13 USD, making the cost of labor less than a dollar an hour for whomever was crocheting the piece. “Real crochet can not be replicated by any kind of knitting machine; this was made by hand and anyone that crochets can recognise that,” she stated on her Instagram post.

Wilden, who learned how to crochet almost three years ago, began her company by sharing images of her creations on her personal Instagram page, following several trips to Jamaica – even living on the island for months at a time.  A UK native, Wilden said that her extensive time spent in Jamaica allowed her to be privy to a life that tourists aren’t necessarily exposed to.  “I’m very aware that England’s economy was basically built on the back of Jamaica’s exports during slavery,” she said. “As a British woman, I felt really frustrated that England has gained so much from this country, yet it feels like [England now] isn’t supporting [Jamaica] economically or doing anything to address the deep-rooted social issues and corrupt practices.”

 

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A bag in the line Wilden released in collaboration with Jamaican artisans, via Knots & Vibes on Instagram.

Wilden believes that an active and immediate manner to support Jamaican people is through business opportunities, which would have a direct and positive effect on the Jamaican standard of living and crime rates. Wilden is using her brand to affect the change she wishes to see.  Through Knots & Vibes, Wilden collaborated with a Portland, Jamaica artisan on a woven bag collection: the artisan hand-wove the bags and Wilden added crochet decorations.  The pieces were sold via her website.  She was also a part of an awareness project about child sex abuse, published in Hunger Magazine. Clothed in Wilden’s hand-made pieces, the exposé aims to dispel the idea that Jamaica is simply an idyllic tourist destination in hopes to shed light on the deep rooted culture of sexual abuse affecting young people, particularly women, in Jamaica.

 

Following the publication of the project, titled “Jamaica’s Silent Women Speak Out,” Wilden said she began to think more intensely about the dilemmas women are faced with when they are without assets  “…and how it can be very difficult to be independent and self-reliant – more often [than not, Jamaican women] are forced to rely on a man financially which means they can be treated terribly, but are unable to leave. ”

 

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From Wilden’s workshop in Jamaica, via Knots & Vibes website.

In response, Wilden traveled to Jamaica last December to provide a nine-day crochet workshop at a home for teenage mothers.  Of the project, Wilden said that “…the aim of this was to teach [the women] a skill that they can develop and eventually use to earn an income.” The home, run by 501(c)3 nonprofit organization Mustard Seed Communities is dedicated to “caring for the most vulnerable populations.” Since the initial workshop, Wilden has accepted donations and crocheting materials to send to Jamaica to perpetuate the longevity of the women’s work, aiding in their independence by way of financial freedom, even if Wilden herself is not able to immediately return to Jamaica to curate another workshop, as everything is funded solely by herself and those she receives donations from.

In short, crocheting is a labor intensive, personal, passion project for Wilden.  And while she acknowledges that sites like FashionNova and other fast fashion brands will always have the power of accessibility and mass appeal on their side, she urges readers to do their research and consciously support small business and shop ethically when they are able. Some of Wilden’s favorites (with direct links to their Instagram accounts) include:  @memegold@quaintbags@j.j.c.clothing@babygirl.by.bf @mojokojouk@nicelydamaged_shop. “I always have my eye out for small brands that use Instagram to promote and sell their products,” she says. “A lot of the time they are run by someone just like me, a one-woman brand!”

Knots & Vibes will begin accepting orders again beginning in February.  To stay up-to-date on restocks and forthcoming announcements including the ways in which you can support Wilden’s mission trips to Jamaica, follow the brand on Instagram.

 

bridget

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