I really like the iPhone, but my husband's Samsung seems to have a far superior camera - EVERYTHING looks better, crisper, sharper through his phone. But I love my iPhone. So I thought, I'd send a photo of my beloved iPhone to Samsung and say, hey Mr Samsung, can you please make me an exact copy of this iPhone, looking the same, working the same but just make the camera like yours? Oh wait, there's this thing called Intellectual Property that Apple, and pretty much every other company in any industry, is extremely hot over.
All, except it would seem cake making and other smaller creative design industries made up of small businesses. For some inexplicable reason, and especially with the advent of Pinterest, it seems to be a commonly accepted practice to send a baker a picture of someone else's birthday cake and ask to repli-cake. Now there are many reasons why someone would do that - they genuinely love the design and the "original" cake maker is based 3,000 miles away, or they can't even trace the original cake maker and really want the exact cake, or they think there's no harm done having someone else copy it. Or they want it cheaper. All "kinda" valid thoughts as a customer. Kinda...
Copy-Cats & Copy-Cakes
Sending a photo of a Pinterest cake to your friend or your nan etc to recreate is completely different. Hobby baking is huge, and we all love making cakes for friends and fam.
But when it's commercial, ie: cake being made in exchange for money, that's when it gets shady in my opinion. Here's why:
Creative Short Cuts
Cakes, and indeed other creative products eg: wedding stationery, dresses, perfume bottles, I could go on and on, these things don't design themselves. There is a creative maker who spends time dreaming, thinking, creating. Then there are the tests and trials. That time is generally incorporated into the cost of the product. Now when someone sends a photo of a beautiful and super cool creative cake (I'm not talking about a bog standard frosted vanilla cake with sprinkles, I'm talking about something like our Alice in Wonderland cake) to another cake maker to replicate, they're asking the other cake maker to short-cut the design process and profit off someone else's creative labour. Any other industry, eg: fashion or phones, that's a potential messy lawsuit.
We'll every so often get enquiries where the customer has obviously been on our website, browsed and seen the type of buttercream cakes we specialise in yet sends us a photo of a novelty, fondant iced number or someone else's beautifully designed cake (I've even seen images of cakes sent to us made by cake makers I know and am friends with myself!). I'll say it straight up, it sucks. It sucks because it's quite insulting to be kind of told that our designs aren't good enough and we need to copy or be "inspired" by someone else's work. Possibly even beat their price. Us cake makers, we have feelings too waan waan...
On the flip-side, we also get sent photos of minging cakes to recreate. I'm in two minds about this - do I take the money and purposefully try to make an uglier cake than our usual standards? Or should I be a cake snob and say NOOOO, toooo ming?? What's the right answer here? I don't think I'll ever know.
It may not be too obvious in the cake making world, but it does happen and when it does it mega sucks - the copy cat gets all the credit and enjoys the fruits of recognition so to speak. One of my incredibly talented cake maker pals in London, Olofson Design, designed a beautiful Marie Antoinette inspired cake. It was a stunning design, so stunning that a bride had another local cake maker make an exact replica for her wedding and that wedding happened to get featured in a popular wedding magazine, blogs and all that jazz. Except the cake credit went to the copy-cat of course, not the original designer of the cake. And this does happen far more often than we think - larger companies "steal" smaller indie designers creative work, such as illustrations and artwork, and get the recognition and press (and profits) due to their size and established brand.
U ok hun??
Right about now you're probably thinking, "Hang on Reshmi, you said it was kinda okay at the start of this post?? All this sounds like you've got your knickers in a twist about it...u ok hun?"
Ah yes, I am okay. Of course I know cake designing can't be protected like designing other physical goods such as an iPhone - after all it's a perishable item that gets ogled for a bit, papped, and then gobbled. If someone is really desperate for one of our Horn of the Unicorn croquembouches but is getting married in Lahaina as opposed to London then of course it makes sense to request someone local to create it.
If we're out of someone's budget, obviously that customer is going to go looking elsewhere, and we could also be on the flip-side where another cake maker is out of budget and the customer brings their image and enquiry to us instead (this happens quite frequently with wedding cake enquiries!).
Inspiration is tremendous, imitation is tedious
So the onus is on us fellow creatives - we are justified in taking pride in our work and skills and can say, "Thanks for sharing the image for inspiration but we'd like to change it up just so that we aren't simply copying someone else's work and to make it truly unique for you". We all draw inspiration from each other, Instagram, noone's an island and all that but isn't that just ideal? Who knows, it could even be better than the original!
Lots of love,