Is Minimalism A Safe Escape For Copycats In The Beauty Industry?

Clean aesthetic, dirty tactics

In this past decade, minimalism has grown from a trend to a lifestyle. People have started appreciating the beauty in simplicity, straightforwardness, and what we may call 'fuss-free' in many aspects — from homeware, interior design, and prominently, makeup, skincare and fashion. That's why many brands within these industries have embraced the minimalist style almost as quickly, dropping theatrics and loud aesthetics for something looking crisp and clean. 

And of course, the tactic worked. A lot of consumers immediately embraced the idea of minimalist packaging and marketing and immediately, such style got associated to an elevated take on what's chic and luxurious. But just like any other fad, its growing popularity has been subject to issues between brands, with allegations of imitation and actual copyright infringement lawsuits. Which got us thinking: in an industry that thrives on simplicity and subtlety, what qualifies as 'copying' when there's literally not a lot to copy?

Just recently, a Filipino brand has been called out for allegedly copying not just Glossier's minimalist approach to packaging but even their marketing strategy of controlling the release of their stocks to increase the hype and anticipation from its patrons. The brand has acknowledged the allegations in a recent interview with Bustle, in which they quoted the brand's co-founder and Creative Director Martine Cajucom-Ho as saying, "Glossier is a brand we look up to... They’re game-changers, and we feel that any brand that isn’t inspired by what they’ve done isn’t looking in the right direction."

While it appeased others in saying that the statement was a sign of humility, it also caused even more criticisms against the brand, saying that it sounds even more of an actual admittance to a lack of originality.  Glossier has yet to give their opinion on the situation.

The same goes for another beauty brand that raised brows for its comparable aesthetic, again, to Glossier and interestingly enough, Rihanna's Fenty Beauty. Its name? Identy Beauty. And nope, that's not a typo! 

But don't judge it just yet. Looking at their company website, the brand was said to be established under detox beauty brand Freshly Cosmetics in 2016, which was a year before Fenty Beauty was officially launched in 2017. Such a crazy coincidence, don't you think — or is it?

Is a 'who copied who' question even applicable in such a situation? Given the similarities packaging-wise — and the eerily similar-sounding names (though, we can't blame Rih because Fenty is her last name) — this really makes us wonder where imitation begins and ends given such a simple and uncomplicated visual style, especially when we have cases such as this one where the timeline doesn't add up. 

If we think about it, the difference of minimalist style among others is the lack of something to patent. Sans-serif fonts, pastels, basic shapes and negative space are pretty much the only elements that compose a minimalist aesthetic and it is something that has always been available to everybody since, well, we were in kindergarten. So who's to say and claim that you've copied off someone if you simply follow the rules of keeping your product's layout in the neatest possible format? Have copycats finally found their safe space in the world of the creatives? While we really think there is no right or wrong answer given the questions we have raised, we can only hope that those who used this trend as a smokescreen to feign originality and creativity for the sake of profit be left to the hands and keen eyes of the paying public. 

We at Team Clozette have already shared our thoughts if we think imitation really is a form of flattery, but in cases as complicated as this where we cannot really consider design similarities as evidence, we do believe it really lies on the discernment of the consumers and onlookers. Remembering the old adage that one cannot judge a book by its cover, minimalist packaging can clinch one's interest given its growing popularity but only time and experience can tell if the actual quality of the product is at par with whatever it is claimed or alleged to have copied, at least on the packing front. 

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