Kat Von D, Makeup Revolution & #DupeGate: When Does Copycatting Go Too Far?

If you’ve been living under a rock these past few days (or simply don’t spend your time immersed in the Instagram accounts of the beauty elite like me,) then you may not have noticed that there has been a war of words erupting from the camp of Kat Von D against brands that, in her words, ‘ride her coattails’. It started when Kat, the creative mind behind her self-named super-stellar makeup brand, shared this Instagram image comparing her ‘Shade & Light’ palette to that of Makeup Revolution’s ‘Light & Shade palette’ – which is without a doubt somewhat more than ‘inspired’ by her original. Rather interestingly the response was somewhat split, with Kat’s committed fans running to her defense and posting supportive messages, while many others stepped in to express their confusion as to why this was even wrong. In order to express her point of view further, Kat then uploaded a video to YouTube which explained her frustration and disappointment while giving viewers an insight into her development and creative process. (Worth a watch here if you have time!)

For me this was the cherry on top of a cake that’s been cooking for
some time, with increasing amount of conversation being driven by the
relentless copycatting and piggybacking that seems to be saturating the
industry; Beauty By The Bunny wrote an interesting piece on why she personally felt Makeup Revolution had gone too far; I even documented my thoughts in a previous post
that I was bored of the constant duping that was stifling innovation
and wanted to see more creativity in 2017. Duping has never been more
prevalent than it is now, but is it fundamentally wrong as many are
pointing out, or simply just part and parcel of an industry that’s
focused on always launching something new? To help you make your own
mind up, there are a few issues worth first considering.

THIS IS NOT ABOUT MAKEUP ELITISM

I’ve
seen many comments on social media that have made this debate all about
makeup elitism and an invisible barrier between those that can afford
high end beauty products, and those that can’t. From my point of view
this issue has nothing to do with high end versus budget, because there
are so many budget brands available that don’t dupe, don’t copy and
focus their efforts on creating the best cosmetics they can – including
those that push the boundaries and offer consumers something just as
exciting as a Tarte Cosmetics palette. (Barry M, Collection, 3ina, Kiko are just some of the brands hitting it out of the park when it comes to affordable makeup.) Copying another brand is not necessary; copying another brand is an active choice. Buying a dupe is not your only option; buying a dupe is an active choice. 

THE MAKEUP INDUSTRY IS VERY DIFFERENT TO FASHION

Unlike
in fashion, where the designs are usually the brainchild of one person
(or a small group of genuinely talented individuals,) the beauty
industry is predominately run from a handful of factories across the
globe. Many of these factories actually develop and own the technology
themselves, licensing out the concept to the highest bidder for usually
6-24 months; when this period is up then other brands can use it, which
is why you often see a snowball effect where all the brands are falling
over themselves to offer their own version of something new. Very few brands (Kat Von D being one of them) actually have an individual at the helm who is creatively involved in developing products and ensuring their vision comes to life; the majority are massive corporations who launch their cosmetics on license and don’t actually own any of the innovation themselves.

NO IDEA IS EVER ORIGINAL

Jane from British Beauty Blogger recently hosted a fascinating Facebook Live
where she discussed and illustrated how brands are constantly copying,
being inspired and nodding back to products launched years (sometimes
even decades) previously. Put simply, no idea is ever original – it’s always been done before in some way or another, which is unsurprising seeing as we’ve been developing mass market cosmetics for the best part of a century. Many brands coincidentally launch very similar concepts at the same time, often inspired by trends or what’s going on in Asian markets, because there’s only so far you can go with makeup whilst ensuring it remains useable. You can’t trademark the order of nude eyeshadows for good reason. 

DUPES TARGET A VERY DIFFERENT MARKET 

As
far as the argument around ‘cannibalizing’ sales of more premium brands
goes, generally speaking those investing into high end cosmetics and
those preferring to buy into their dupe counterparts are two very
different consumers. Yes, the majority of us dabble in a bit of this and
a bit of that, but a Kat Von D customer is very different from a Makeup
Revolution customer because they have very different expectations of
their cosmetics. Personally I really don’t think Charlotte Tilbury is sobbing into her decaf almond sugar-free latte that someone has copied her packaging and is making a quick buck off the back of her brand; she’s laughing all the way to the bank and focusing on her next big launch. There’s plenty of money (and consumers) to go around, and each brand provides them with something different.

So what of my opinion? I’ve been mulling over this for some time and I’m still not 100% decided. There are so many issues that go into understanding the business of beauty (and moreover the dupe market) because it’s so fluid. I’m definitely of the mindset that no idea is ever truly original and that dupes provide an accessible way into the beauty market for many; however, it’s about your own personal opinion and preference. I’m all for consumer choice and dupes do provide that, but for me when every element of the original is copied (including packaging, colour scheme and name) that’s when it’s gone a step too far. Be inspired, put your own stamp on it and offer something you know your customers will love – but don’t be lazy, cheap or nasty.

Makeup Revolution themselves have responded saying: “dupes are a
recognised and celebrated part of the fashion and beauty industry, and
consumers love them; we never knowingly infringe any design copyright or
patent.”
They’ve made their entire business from the ability to provide affordable makeup and bring new ideas to life fast, but I personally think they’ve lost sight of why they were so popular in the first place and have been focusing on duping everything under the sun just to make a quick buck. I loved them at the beginning when they offered super affordable bits and bobs that you could justify picking up on your lunchbreak, but recently I’ve fallen out of love with them as a brand that is seriously lacking some decent innovation. Dupes will only get you so far and in 2017 I seriously think we’re all going to be looking for something a little more substantial. They’ll never disappear completely, but we’re now in a position to demand more from our makeup – no matter how much we pay for it.

What is your opinion on dupes, the Kat Von D drama and Makeup Revolution as a brand?

 Features PR samples unless otherwise stated. To read my full disclaimer, click here.  

24 Comments

  1. Fran Mcmonagle
    March 23, 2017 / 4:30 pm

    For me personally, I'm torn.On the one hand as said no idea is completely original and Adam (creator of Makeup Revolution) has worked on many brands packaging and ranges before starting his line(s). On the other, for me, I enjoy seeing Kat's creative insight into her products to which she really does put her heart and soul into. If I was her and someone duped my product, I would be peeved. Which ever way, it won't stop me from buying either brand. But as a rule I don't tend to buy dupes as they normally enable my buying the high end version. (For example using MUR's Urban Decay Naked 3 dupe and realising I loved the colours meant I treated myself to the Urban Decay version the next pay day where as I may not have previous).Anyway! This was a really interesting read, thank you 🙂 ♥ Fran – http://www.frannymac.com xx

    • Hayley Carr
      March 23, 2017 / 5:31 pm

      I love knowing her brand has so much passion behind it (which is somewhat unique in the industry) and I also love that makeup is accessible to all. I'm torn and change my opinion every hour at the moment, but I know I also want originality and innovation from across the spectrum.

  2. BeautybytheBunny
    March 23, 2017 / 4:52 pm

    Brilliantly put Hayley xx

    • Hayley Carr
      March 23, 2017 / 5:31 pm

      Thank you! x

  3. Elle Thorpe
    March 23, 2017 / 6:21 pm

    What a great post. Thank you for sharing. I see both sides here but also I think dupes make make up and beauty accessible to all! Elle du Jour xxx

  4. Humaira
    March 23, 2017 / 8:21 pm

    To be honest I've fallen out of love with Makeup Revolution. I feel like their strongest product was the one with Jane from British Beauty Blogger. I would love to see more original products like that. I just feel like the dupe market is all they're doing and there needs to be something more to really appeal to consumers and stay ahead in the market.

    • Hayley Carr
      March 24, 2017 / 9:14 am

      I 100% agree. The fortune palette was great (and from my understanding their best selling globally) because it was unique and well thought through. That should tell them a lot – the demand is there for affordable yet original.

  5. Mrs Tubbs
    March 23, 2017 / 9:29 pm

    It's a hard one. Many people buy dupes because they can't afford the original or it's difficult to get or because they want to test drive something first. Although it won't be the same quality, it does mean you test colours etc to see if they suit you and it's worth making the spend. I'm not convinced by the argument that dupes stop people buying the more expensive product as the target audiences tend to be different. I prefer it when the dupe adds a twist to the original rather than being a straight copy. Nicking the design and packaging and just giving the product a new name is a a bit meh. But buying a dupe from a shop isn't as risky as buying a "100% genuine product made in China" from eBay.

    • Hayley Carr
      March 24, 2017 / 9:18 am

      Oh goodness, no! That's a whole other issue, which I don't really understand at all (why buy a cosmetic that's fake, when it just won't work?!)

  6. Vivian Yuen
    March 24, 2017 / 2:51 am

    I love that Kat Von D is so zealous about her brand and her designs, even down to the name she gives her products – and rightly so, she has a lot to be proud of! I don't think makeup dupes will ever leave the market, you're right, for some people dupes make makeup more accessible (and who wouldn't want a bargain??) That being said, MUR have taken it too far with this specific product. It's like they don't even try anymore… Consumers know when companies are simply regurgitating products just to make as much profit as possible… Vivian | LIVE . IN . LOVE~

    • Hayley Carr
      March 24, 2017 / 9:20 am

      Kat is such a passionate businesswoman and I have a lot of respect for her; she's controversial, but it's because her brand is her baby. I feel like you on this one – that there's no thought, just endless regurgitation, which I think it what is sitting funny with me.

  7. Rhiannon Pulling
    March 24, 2017 / 7:41 am

    It's a hard one to agree on! Like you said, there's some brands who innovate and others who don't. And you know the brand leaders will be the ones who do! Dupes have always been around and it's not a bad thing, unless you are literally copying the product word for word. I like that dupes are available for me to try at an affordable price! X Everything But The Kitchen

  8. Aisling
    March 24, 2017 / 10:12 am

    Buying a dupe often does lead me to buy the real deal. Like a try before you buy. But I think MUR actually does a disservice to itself by packaging some good quality products so they look like cheap knockoffs. It would be nice to see them invest in better packaging and a more curated range.

  9. Jenny
    March 24, 2017 / 1:24 pm

    This is definitely one of the more intelligent posts I've seen on the matter. I can understand both sides of the debate, but an entire brand based on every other brand's products isn't cool in my eyes x

  10. Jasmine Stewart
    March 24, 2017 / 7:36 pm

    This is a really balanced post. I essentially keep coming back to the same conclusion: as beauty bloggers we are the exception in that we'll dabble in a bit of everything. By and large though, people who can afford Kat Von D/Charlotte Tilbury/etc. will buy it – obviously the quality will be reasonably better and also for the experience, the packaging, the artistry and the overall experience of owning a luxury item. People who cannot afford luxury, or perhaps people who don't 'invest' in makeup and just want something cheap and cheerful or ultimately 'disposable' (to try out the latest trend or colours they'd never usually go for) are not their target market. Makeup Revolution specifically do create pretty decent quality makeup and I personally enjoy quite a few of their 'original' products!Jasmine xx Jasmine Talks Beauty

    • Fiona Tamburrini
      March 30, 2017 / 8:34 pm

      As I've got older, I realise how the industry works. In my teens and through my 30s, I spent a fortune doing this because I bought into the hype. But not I'm in my 40s and actually have more expendable income, but after trying so many brands and dupes I know that quality doesn't always mean pricey. The amount of compliments I bet for high Street dupes and really cheap makes would shock many! 😊

  11. www.xloveleahx.co.uk
    March 25, 2017 / 11:12 pm

    I have been a Makeup Rev fan since they launched but they're starting to grate on me a bit now. The Kylie lip kits dupe was one thing, but the Kat Von D thing is a bit much. It's not even the product copying so much, but reversing the name – talk about taking liberties! I think MR can bring out perfectly good products of their own, they don't need to be heavily 'influenced' by everyone else. I'll be waiting to see what their next move is, but many more blatant dupes and I might stop wasting money on loads of MR and spend it on high end things instead. xxx LoveLeah x

    • Fiona Tamburrini
      March 30, 2017 / 8:27 pm

      Why would you do that I'd the dupe is just as good and up to £20 cheaper? For me the issue is that the big name brand is making a huge mark up and needs to stop taking advantage of customer loyalty and/or brand snobbery.

    • Hayley Carr
      March 31, 2017 / 9:50 am

      Higher end brands do use better quality ingredients and packaging, which costs money. It's not just a case of making up a price and seeing what you can get away with – the retailers set margins based on quality and competitors, so there's a maths to the price points you're seeing.

  12. Fiona Tamburrini
    March 30, 2017 / 8:24 pm

    You have to try both and decide which is the best quality. I tried both and went with the Makeup Revolution. However no matter how many nude dupes I buy and try, I can't find any that come close to Urban Decay quality in application or colour pigment. Also the amount of Matt Lipglosses out there is massive but they're all as good as each other and they cost far too much but makeup revolution do them for £3. Can't argue with that when it free's up more money for UD eyeshadow! 😊

  13. Kara O'Brien
    March 31, 2017 / 8:25 pm

    This was a really insightful read. I'm not averse to a good dupe now and again but in terms of Make Up Revolution I personally think they have taken it a step too far. To copy every aspect of a product you possibly can is simply lazy and not creative in the slightest. It's evident from Kat Von D's video how hands on she is in the production of her cosmetics (I think she even says she hand drew the design) so having something to blatantly copied with the minutest differences aside from quality must be heart breaking. I think there is a line, and I much prefer companies such as Bourjois or Barry M who have fabulous, original products than those whose entire stock is made up of copies.Karawww.spreadthesparkle.co.uk💗

  14. Rosa Fairfield
    April 1, 2017 / 1:42 pm

    This was super interesting to read, I feel like I now know a little more about how make-up is produced.http://ohduckydarling.com

  15. Nital Shah
    April 5, 2017 / 12:52 pm

    I am going to play devils advocate as I am torn here. I do disagree with blatant copying and I do believe you get what you pay for most of the time. However make-up is so expensive and to keep throwing make-up away after the shelf life date can send you broke if you are paying for high end brands. I use and like Bobbi Brown, Urban Decay, Mac and a few others, however I have got lipsticks and powders that I have had for years and I have no intention of throwing them away. I cut the tip off or remove a light layer of the powder. I am loathed to throw it away as it costs so much (unless it's mascara). I also do not want to purchase cheaper brands either though as I have used some in the past and do not like them (for various reasons).

  16. Leigh-Ann
    April 6, 2017 / 2:42 am

    I think you've covered so much more than what the average person knows about the beauty industry. The blatant copying is so disrespectful.

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