I think that stealing a wedding dress design and having it made in China (in a place that is probably a sweatshop) is really unethical. It upsets me, as it both screws the original designer (who is probably a creative type who you would want to hang out with) and the workers … all for a dress you will wear once.
Then again, I am not poor, and I can afford to pay the designer direct for some of the dresses I like and I will check that they are not made unethically.
Am I just being a judgmental bitch cos I have the money to “do the right thing” here? Am I assuming that people have not thought about these issue, but actually they have and are fine with it? -Anonymous
What a thick and meaty ethical question! Thanks so much for bringing the issue up. Ultimately, it's up to each of us to decide where their consumer values align — this is bigger than weddings. This is about pirating music, buying local produce, and world trade issues. I'm no consumer values expert, so really all I can do is share my personal perspective and values…
Since I tend towards slightly odd clothes that I generally can't find in mainstream stores, I get a thrill out of supporting independent designers — I love the individuality that indie designs provide. When I was planning my wedding, this value translated into not being attracted in the big ticket dresses that I couldn't afford. My goal was to work with a couple local indie designers/seamstresses to custom-make something awesome and unique that I could re-wear. I had about a $500 budget, and integrated pieces of a cheap prom dress made in China and hand-crafted elements.
While I personally had no interest in wearing a designer dress, I will say that I have no qualms with off-shore reproduction of name-brand designer wedding dresses through online spots like Kaersen. Many of the commercially-made dresses available at mainstream wedding boutiques are made in China anyway, and I don't think you're doing something inherently awful by taking money out of a big name designer's pocket. Vera Wang is a rich woman who dresses movie stars. The $5k you're not spending on one of her wedding dresses isn't going to put her in the poor house. I kind of equate reproducing a designer wedding dress with pirating a Beyonce album.
That said, I think it's a different game if you're reproducing a dress made by a small, independent designer. And heaven forbid if you're reproducing a dress by an indie seamstress. That just doesn't fit with my personal values of prioritizing indie designers. (Then again, part of the magic of indie designers is that they create dresses that aren't easy to rip off. What off-shore dress factory is going to crank-out hand-dyed silk in your custom colors?)
This is a way bigger question than just wedding dresses though, and you're right, anonymous: having money gives you the luxury of thinking through this decision with your consumer values held high. For some brides, their consumer values are a big priority in their lives that they translate into their wedding planning.
Other brides may be focused on different offbeat aspects of their wedding — like hand-knitting scarves for each of their bridesmaides, or making sure their gay minister friend officiates, or hand-baking 200+ wedding cupcakes. These folks may think to themselves, “I like that dress I saw in the window, but I spent all my budget on organic catering and my amazing photographer. I'll just have the dress made in China.”
Like every other wedding decision, it's an issue of picking your battles, identifying your priorities, and compromising to make the best choice you can.